Future uncertain for Fiesta 16, city's first multiplex to feature stadium seating

Fiesta 16
The Regal Fiesta Stadium 16, which opened its doors in Oct. 1996, may be demolished to make way for a new apartment complex.

SAN ANTONIO - More than 23 years after Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny battled Monstars in space, Arnold Schwarzenegger battled Sinbad for a Turbo-Man doll, and Mel Gibson battled kidnappers so they'd give him back his son, the local multiplex that gave San Antonio moviegoers their first unobstructed view of these cinematic adventures appears headed for demolition, man.

Houston-based property owner Weingarten Realty has filed an application to rezone the land on Vance Jackson Road currently occupied by the Regal Fiesta Stadium 16.

"The proposal is to tear down the theater and put up an apartment complex under 350 units," according to a letter sent by the Huntington Place Homeowners Association to people who live near the theater. "We have seen renderings of the apartment and it will be a top-notch apartment complex with landscaping, which will remove a lot of the asphalt that is currently in place."

When reached for comment about this plan, Weingarten Realty provided the following statement from Gerald Crump, Senior Vice President, Director Central Region: "Weingarten Realty currently has an operating lease with Regal Theatres. We are evaluating our long-term options."

Regal Cinemas did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

"Regal is a tenant," said District 8 City Councilman Manny Pelaez, who's been in contact with both the HOA and Weingarten Realty. "The owner of the property has decided to do something else with that property (rather) than continue with the movie theater there. They think that they can probably make more money by unloading the property and developing it into something different."

Upon its grand opening Oct. 25, 1996, near the corner of Vance Jackson and De Zavala, the Fiesta Stadium 16 quickly claimed the title of San Antonio's biggest movie theater at the time (16 screens!). It also became the first in town to feature the then-novel concept of stadium seating, with each row higher than the next in front of it, removing all fear of some hat-wearing seven-footer plopping down in front of you.

The Fiesta 16 would hold onto that title of San Antonio's biggest theater for less than a year, when the AMC Huebner Oaks 24 opened just down the road. By August 2012, Fiesta had stopped showing new movies and transitioned into a second-run discount theater, which is how Regal continues to operate it to this day.

"It seems that (Weingarten) believes building out a multi-family project there is in their best interest," said Pelaez. "But I have to look out for our constituents, and I have to worry about things like traffic impact and whether or not that density is the right kind of density for that property and surrounding neighborhoods."

The HOA letter said its board of directors had set up a committee to gather input, while also making it clear they have specific conditions for supporting such a zoning change.

"As a collective group, we have weighed the pros and cons of this situation, and we believe that we can leverage our support of this zoning change to add a 4-way street light off the private road next to the theater," the letter reads. "The city has made it clear that they do not have the funds for this 4-way street light, and we have made it clear that we will not support the zone change without this light."

Pelaez said he and his staff will be working with the developer and the neighborhoods "to figure out if there is some middle ground they all can live with. And if they can't, then they'll have to make a decision."

He also emphasized that they are still in the early stages of this process.

"These things take many months," said Pelaez. "We're in the infancy of this thing. The process is long, and it requires a lot of community meetings. Before I make any decisions, we'll be requiring the builder and the owner to hold town hall meetings of their own to present their project to the neighborhood and let the neighborhoods weigh in, and we'll be monitoring all the comments that come in from the neighborhoods to make sure that we understand the sentiments that arise from their seeing this project."

After the town hall meetings, Weingarten will have to present its proposal to the San Antonio Zoning Commission.

"The City of San Antonio staff has to review this and make sure all the boxes are checked," said Pelaez. "And then it's presented to the Zoning Commission, who then either makes a recommendation that the city council approves the zoning change, or they make a recommendation that the city council rejects the zoning change. And then, after that it comes to city council for us to vote on."

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