The Silicon Valley Voice

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City Desk: Dec 3, 2014

Council Votes For Super Bowl 50 as Community Celebration, and Opportunity to Put Santa Clara on the World’s Map

Here’s the headline no one – except those Debbie Downers who live to be able to say, “I told you so” – wants to see on Feb. 8, 2016: “Santa Clara Fumbles Super Bowl Opportunity.”

But that was the assessment of the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau of New Jersey’s performance when East Rutherford, New Jersey hosted the 2014 Super Bowl. The Bureau said that the state “did a poor job marketing itself before the game,” according to a March, 2014 news report by Atlantic City radio station WPG.

Since the Meadowlands and Levi’s Stadiums both share the circumstance of not being geographically in their home team’s city, it’s something to be concerned about.

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Of course, East Rutherford and Santa Clara are different cities. Santa Clara is 12 times larger and it’s home to the companies that put the “silicon” in “Silicon Valley” and virtual coin money. East Rutherford is the place where Federal Reserve sends its worn-out currency to be properly disposed of. People leave East Rutherford every morning to work in Midtown Manhattan. People come to work every morning in Santa Clara.

However, what Santa Clara does have in common with East Rutherford is that the outside world doesn’t perceive the cities as separate from the large urban centers bordering them.

Look up “Silicon Valley” in Wikipedia. The City of Santa Clara is mentioned twice: as part of the “San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara” Metropolitan Statistical Area and in a list of Bay Area cities. It’s not mentioned in Wikipedia’s history of Silicon Valley, although Stanford, Sunnyvale and Mountain View are.

Despite all the I’ll-still-love-you-in-the-morning talk a year ago from the Super Bowl Host Committee about Super Bowl 50 being a regional event benefiting the whole area and showcasing Santa Clara’s innovation and leadership, what’s actually been planned so far, other than the game, will be in San Francisco.

The reality is that if Santa Clara is going to get a visibility boost from the event, the City will have to make that happen on its own. Tellingly, the one 2014 Super Bowl non-Manhattan event that did put New Jersey in the spotlight was Secaucus’ three-day Winter Blast pre-Super Bowl party featuring a skating rink, food trucks, beer garden and other entertainment. This drew about 8,000 people and raised about $20,000 for a local charity, reported The Record newspaper on Feb. 4, 2014.

And that, at its core, is what the $2 million in “Contingency Funds for Locally Sponsored Events for Super Bowl 50” – approved unanimously at the Nov. 25 Santa Clara City Council meeting – was all about: making the most of a one-time opportunity that is not only about promoting Santa Clara, but for reinforcing a shared sense of community. “This stadium would not be here except for the residents of Santa Clara,” said Council Member Debi Davis. “This is a way to thank them.”

What it wasn’t about was squandering general fund money on “bread and circuses,” subsidizing NFL billionaires, or whether or not City Council Members were habitual liars and mouthpieces for “special interests,” as critics accused. This litany of accusations has been repeated regularly over the last eight years – since the first time the notion of a 49ers stadium in Santa Clara was raised – and this time it drew a direct answer from Mayor Jamie Matthews.

Noting that Levi’s Stadium realized a historic high for naming rights – about $8 million per year that goes to the Santa Clara Stadium Authority – as well as selling all the stadium seat licenses and season tickets in an unprecedented short time, Matthews said, “The stadium effect is real – it’s generated $6.5 billion – as much as you want to say it isn’t. It’s time to move the clock forward.”

The city’s plan is to fund these events with private sponsorship, and to hire a professional fundraiser to do so – allocating $50,000 for that purpose. However, the seed money for these projects money is needed until sponsorship donations are received. The money will be allocated from the Capital Projects Reserve fund, which is currently around $10 million, according to the 2014-15 Capital Improvement Project budget.

“The agreement with [Super Bowl 50] Host Committee covers our cost for Super Bowl – above and beyond game day events,” explained City Manager Julio Fuentes. The additional events would ensure “that our residents can participate in the Super Bowl experience.” The City is also asking for some support from the host committee, he continued, saying that he believes the “door is open for that discussion.” Any funds leftover after the event would be donated to local non-profits.

All of the events funded through this would be free to everyone to attend. Ticketed events would be paid for by ticket sales or their producers.

“The Super Bowl must be leveraged on every level possible for the benefit of the city,” said Hilton Santa Clara Manager Erich Smith. “The events proposed will help us to be part of the Super Bowl experience. Santa Clara is in the perfect position to leverage this opportunity. We’re in the right place at the right time and we need to do the right thing. It will bring a lasting economic impact. Do not underestimate the economic waves [from] this event into the future.”

The Council approved the set-aside, but with a big caveat: that the fund-raising efforts be directed and managed by the City’s Marketing Committee, and if, after the effort is launched, it doesn’t look like the $2 million goal will be met, the City Council will look at cutting back on the events. The most costly event is a proposed parade ($1.5 million) and that would be the most likely to be cut if sponsors aren’t found.

“I also have hesitations [about allocating the money] when we have other pressing needs,” said Council Member Teresa O’Neill, who proposed that no money be spent until the City could see some sponsorship commitments. “I can’t support putting out $2 million when we have playgrounds falling apart. But I do want to leverage everything the city has to offer.” O’Neill, who has been a contract negotiator at HP for more than 30 years, said that any fundraiser hired should be paid based on meeting the target – what Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Board Member Scott Lane called “putting a fire under their belly.”

“The sponsorship opportunities for us look very promising,” said Council Member Lisa Gillmor. “Many businesses are interested in the Super Bowl being the biggest stage in the world, the biggest event in the world, especially the 50th, so they want to be involved. I’m looking for our Chamber of Commerce to go out help us raise this money,” Gillmor added, clearly indicating that Chamber’s strong endorsement of the Super Bowl bid also came with accountability.

“I think that being able to include our residents is really important … because many of us will not be able to go to the Super Bowl. But we can participate. We can feel like we going to be part of it even if we’re not going to be attending the game. Through the marketing committee we have a lot of resident participation and we’re looking for more resident participation. Because the more people can weigh in on the types of activities we’re looking at, the better the activities are going to be in the long run.”

Gillmor then motioned to delegate the decision on allocating money to Marketing Committee, with recommendations subject to City Council approval.

“I love the intent,” said Lane, “but I want to make this broader. I think we need a lot more neighborhood representation here, a lot more ‘bringing people together. I think it will be a precedent to be in Buck Shaw Stadium [telecasting the game]. That’s fantastic. All of this is fantastic.” However he said, “the biggest costs are going to be behind the scenes. When it comes to [parade] floats … these are people who [will] pay for it themselves.”

The committee meets at the Central City Library’s Redwood Room on the third Wednesday of the month at 4 p.m.

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