Since opening in 2014, Levi’s Stadium has brought in $659 million for Santa Clara’s Stadium Authority and added $21 million to the City of Santa Clara’s general fund, according to the Authority’s financial reports. In that time, the City’s general fund has profited by about $19 million from:
$14.9 million in non-NFL event profits — “performance rent”
$1.9 million in ticket fees
$2.1 million in ground rent
$626,000 in parking fees from Tasman and golf course parking lots
Sales tax is another benefit to Santa Clara’s general fund from stadium events. Conservatively estimated at $250,000 a year,* sales tax revenue adds another $2 million a year to increase the general fund to $21.4 million. Sales tax revenue added $454,000 to the city’s general fund this year alone.
The city has also been reimbursed from stadium revenues for $24.3 million for public safety expenses and administrative staff time since 2014.
Even without concerts, the Stadium Authority realized $68 million in 2021-22, delivering $1.1 million to Santa Clara’s general fund in the fiscal year that ended on March 30, 2022, reported Santa Clara Director of Finance Kenn Lee at the Nov. 1 council meeting.
The coming year promises to be a good one, with five concerts already on the books, which will bring an estimated profit of $2.1 million, noted Council Member Raj Chahal at the council meeting. In addition, the 49ers will be paying an additional $35,000 in ground rent. Without any increase in parking or sales tax — which is certain from the five additional events — the stadium promises to deliver over $3 million to the city’s general fund in 2022-23.
Stadium Finance 101
The Santa Clara Stadium Authority was set up as a separate public agency form the City of Santa Clara. This protects the city from liability for stadium authority expenses and debts, and protects the stadium authority from city councils diverting stadium revenues away from stadium operations, maintenance and reserves.
The contracts spell out the flow of revenue to the Stadium Authority and to the city, and the priorities for payment and account funding— sometimes referred to as the “waterfall” of payments. These obligations cannot be changed without renegotiating the terms of the contracts.
The Stadium Authority receives revenue from: ticket surcharges, seat licenses and interest payments, naming rights, sponsorships, non-NFL event profits, and the facilities and ground rents paid by the 49ers. This pays for the stadium operations, maintenance, construction debt repayment, stadium reserves and payments to the city’s general fund.
Stadium Authority revenue has averaged $82 million a year; reaching a high of $124 million in 2014-15 (due to the initial seat license sales) and hitting a low of $49 million during the pandemic.
The city’s revenue stream includes: senior and youth service ticket fees (which are capped at $250,000), 50% of non-NFL profit event profits, ground rent paid by the 49ers (also fixed by contract), and reimbursement for public safety and administrative staff costs. The city collects parking fees from the Tasman lots directly and sales tax revenue is distributed to the city by the county.
This general fund revenue has averaged $2.7 million, with the high of $5.8 million in 2017-18 and a low of $390,000 in 2020-21.
No other money can flow to Santa Clara’s general fund until the construction debt is paid off, without the agreement of the city’s business partner, the 49ers.
The Stadium Authority began with a construction debt of $653 million. As of last March that amount was down to $280 million, and it’s estimated that it will be paid off in about five years.
“That money came from the Stadium Authority,” said Council Member Raj Chahal at the Nov. 1 council meeting. “It did not fall from the sky. The stadium is making money and our residents should know that. Nobody should be saying it doesn’t make money.”
After the debt is paid off, the expense “waterfall” will still direct the flow of money, but the assumption, when the contracts were negotiated, was that any surplus flowing to the general fund. However, when the debt is retired, the 49ers also have to the right to renegotiate the facilities rent.
These contracts were approved by the city council in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Those city councils included: Mayor Jamie Matthews and Council Members Debi Davis, Lisa Gillmor, Will Kennedy, Patrick Kolstad, Patricia Mahan, Jerry Marsalli, Jamie McLeod, Kevin Moore and Teresa O’Neill.
All of the stadium financial information is available at santaclaraca.gov/our-city/santa-clara-stadium-authority. We have consolidated all the general fund revenue associated with the stadium for this report, which is not how it’s been presented prior to this year. Previous year actuals can be found in the annual budgets.
*Note: This year was the first year that the Stadium Authority financial report included sales tax information. We will update the story when we receive more information from the City.
The stadium has made far too little profit for the city. It has made much less than the Forty Niners projected in order to entice us to pay for it.
That is a big part of the story. Not just the pro Forty Niner PR spin story that you would like to pretend is the full story.
And I agree that we should ask people about it. Especially Mahan Matthews McLemore Caserta Kolstad and many others not just Gillmor and Watanabe.
Why do you always pretend that only your political targets were pro stadium and never the people you politically support and protect?
Why does the Silicon Valley Voice always seem to be so focused on being apologists and advocates for the Forty Niners?
Not certain who these folks are: Mahan Mathews McLemore Caserta Kolstad, but why ask them? Why the accusations on folks who are no longer involved? Make these inquiries, yourself, if you so desire. Why the accusations against the Silicon Valley Voice for simply reporting the news? Why do you accuse them of pretending when they are not? Why all your show of constant contempt for the 49ers?
Your claim is that the stadium has made too little profit for the city than projected and place the blame on the 49ers. This may have been caused by many factors: the pandemic, the 10pm curfew, lack of support from Gillmor, etc. But then perhaps the projections were off, but so what. That’s not unusual. Projections are usually optimistic guesses.
The fact is that the stadium is making money for our city. They are currently estimating that the stadium debt will be paid off earlier than expected, within 5 years.
Please stop pointing fingers at everybody, and just allow our Council, the SVV, the 49ers, and our voters to help set the future course of the Stadium. We’re in good hands.
The people listed were on the city council between 201 and 2013. They were all privy to those contract negotiations, and a majority approved them. They were the ones who had the power to make better terms for the city. One would have to go back to the council minutes to see if the approval was unanimous. Six members of the current council had no hand in it. Caserta left the Council in 2010 and returned after the contracts were signed in 2014. I will share a comment that was made to me years ago by someone who was in those negotiations: “There was only one person negotiating for the city and that was Jennifer Sparacino.” That is, of course, only one person’s view and I wasn’t there.
It’s repeatedly alleged that I’m a 49ers booster. My one contemporaneous editorial about the stadium — https://www.svvoice.com/roger-and-me/ — was written after I was castigated by stadium boosters for interviewing sports economist Roger Noll: https://www.svvoice.com/santa-clara-football-stadium-faces-high-bar-to-deliver-promised-benefits-say-stanford-economist-roger-noll/.
Finally, this is a piece about the numbers and contract terms. These are in black and white in the 10 years of budget, financial reports, contracts, and council reports and presentations on the city website. I fail to see how reporting those numbers is being an apologist. Whatever promises were being made in 2010 are also in those council meeting documents and recordings. However, that isn’t the subject of this article.
This isn’t about whether the city could have have realized more money with different policy, or could have gotten a better deal.
Oh, it is very nice to hear from you. Thank you very much for your information. I’m relatively new to this City, and didn’t pay much attention to the City politics until recently. I enjoy reading the Weekly and the SVV and have always found them very helpful in keeping me up to date on the current City news. Your article is very well written and factual, so I didn’t understand why Mr Buchser was complaining and making all those accusations. But then, that is Mr Buchser’s problem.
PS: A more productive discussion would be about how the city could have made a better deal and what policies going forward can maximize stadium benefit.
Hi. I agree. That time may come soon after the Stadium debt has been fully paid. As you’ve stated in your article, this is likely to be followed by a renegotiation for the facilities rent.
I agree that a more productive discussion would be about how we can most maximize benefit to the city from the stadium going forward. I suspect a big element in doing so is ensuring full financial transparency. My understanding is that there is some renegotiated auditing or financial data access that may be an improvement on what was possible prior to the litigation over financial data and management. But I suspect that it is still incomplete access and data that is not straight from the source but passed through the Forty Niners. What kind of access has been agreed to now and how does it precisely compare against what was sought earlier? And is it truly sufficient to definitively audit the Forty Niners stadium management or is it still conditioned by needing to trust the accuracy of what the Forty Niners voluntarily hand over?
This precise question would be a great story for a local news organization to delve into. Especially a news organization that has shown that it has close contacts with various members of the council bloc that has had dozens of private meetings with the Forty Niners and which by all appearances negotiated the settlement though we do not know exactly since they refuse to discuss this publicly.
The reason I see you and the Silicon Valley Voice in general as Forty Niner boosters is because at least in recent years you uniformly only write positively about the Forty Niners. You have even written an article explaining your opinion that the Forty Niners were entitled to a rent decrease. Against the opinion of your own city government and the financial interests of your own city. And more telling against the opinion of an impartial arbitrator.
In your coverage of the civil grand jury report you and SVV only write in defense of the Forty Niners and of the five discussed councilpeople. I agree there are aspects of the grand jury and its report that are questionable. That is one side of the story and does not invalidate the entirety of the report or all its findings and all its recommendations. But you pay no attention to serious concerns raised by publicly known behavior that we did not need the grand jury to uncover for us. The private meetings are a matter of public record. Only the pithiest summary of discussions are public because these five councilpeople went to the trouble of having redundant serial meetings to keep them private and to have nobody other than themselves or the Forty Niners know what precisely was discussed.
This kind of opaque behavior in concert with a corporate special interest with massive financial stakes is outrageous and the type of story that should be covered by a local news organization looking to serve the public interest. But you ignore this side of the story completely. You actually do much more than ignore it as you serve as a vessel for the attacks and deflections that the Forty Niners and the council block use instead of fully explaining themselves and taking the need for transparency seriously.
It is one thing to be fiercely opposed to Gillmor and anyone allied with her politically. And while I think it makes all of you look petty and childish I do not care at all about Silicon Valley Voice’s ongoing personal feud with Robert Haugh and him with you.
But your bias in “reporting” anything to do with the Forty Niners and the stadium is glaring and an abrogation of what most people would consider to be the duty of local journalists. That together with never being critical and never paying any attention to any concerning behavior by the majority council bloc makes you and your publication’s political coverage far more similar to what Robert Haugh produces than what anyone would consider to be journalistic reportage.
I would think that you would want to hold yourselves to a much higher standard but it has seemed that you do not.
Why direct your complaints against the Weekly/SVV? You know they are strong supporters of the 49ers and the stadium. Quit banging your head against the wall. Your complaints should be emailed to our Mayor Lisa Gillmor. She supports your views. But do it quickly, as she may be departing soon. Another person who would offer support is Tom Shanks, the “ethics” guy. Or perhaps his assistant, Kirk Vartan. Anyways, stop with the loud banging. You’ll only cause a big hole in the wall.
I personally object to almost all of the grumblings and accusations Mr Buchser keeps hurling at the Silicon Valley Voice. I also object to his criticism concerning your coverage of the Civil Grand Jury report which I found to be accurate and well written.
My advice is just to ignore his many complaints. He apparently has a strong bias against the 49ers and the stadium.
As for his mentioning of the “five councilpeople” who met with the 49ers, that was their attempt to settle the pending lawsuit, which they felt was being “blocked” by Santana and Gillmor. Well, they were successful as the lawsuit was finally settled.
Also, who the heck is Robert Haugh?
Aside from all of this the fact is the current mayor has refused for years to work with the niners and come to some sort of agreement. she has wanted to win and argument vs solve a problem. A problem that she helped bring to this city.
It amazes me how her and the other council woman Kathy, are seriously just always being so negative and sadly angry about the 49ers and the stadium. I commend the other council members who have been trying to work through a problem that they, personally, did not bring to the city. If memory serves me right the council woman Kathy was in the advertisement telling us to vote Yes on Measure J. She and many others were poster people for the measure.
Why would we want to have these people represent us any more when they have done nothing but obstruct working out how to make the stadium work.
I voted against it but if you haven’t noticed it is built now and we need to use it to our ability. As my mother would say; why are you trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted? Its built lets make this puppy work.
Hey, I agree with you, 100%. It’s very nice to hear some good common sense. My suggestion for Mr Buchser is to stop banging his head against the wall. He should email all his complaints to Mayor Lisa Gillmor. But he better do it quickly, because she may be leaving her office soon.
The Fact Is,
Watanabe and Gillmor were both in television ads for Measure J. And even more prominently in Measure J ads and Measure J public advocacy were Patty Mahan and Jamie Matthews and Dom Caserta and John McLemore.
Mahan and McLemore and Caserta are the ones who brought Becker into Santa Clara politics and have been his biggest supporters who are not an NFL franchise or present councilperson.
And Becker himself has stated that he would have voted for Measure J.
There is no difference between Becker and Gillmor when it comes to Measure J and Becker pretending that he would have done any different when his political godparents were even bigger Measure J proponents is just trying to be sneaky. I bet he would have loved to have starred in Forty Niner television commercials. He is after all having over $2,500,000 spent on him by the Forty Niners and those millions have paid for massive amounts of television commercials for him.
There is a major difference between campaigns for Measure “J” (Gillmor), than voting for it (Becker). I also voted for it.
Without defining a standard based on what economic benefit stadiums deliver to other cities, it’s meaningless to say that Levi’s Stadium should be delivering more. I look forward to seeing that analysis. Perhaps Levi’s Stadium is a high performer.
Carolyn, I couldn’t agree with you more. Personally, I’m glad the 49ers and the stadium are here. My feelings are they are a good added asset to Santa Clara. Looking ahead, I hopefully see they shall reward us both financially and make our City much better known.
Without having direct access to stadium financial systems to properly audit the Forty Niners management I think it is impossible to judge whether or not the Forty Niners have managed the stadium and apportioned profits honestly.
And it is not “meaningless to say Levi’s stadium should be delivering more” under Forty Niners management when citing revenue and profit projections that the Forty Niners themselves gave to the people of Santa Clara. Since when is holding a corporation to their own projections “meaningless”? This is done every single day on the stock market when a corporation reports quarterly financials and is measured against their own projections and those of analysts.
I look forward to knowing if this council majority was able to win direct and unfiltered access to stadium financial systems by city staff or city accounting contractors. I will congratulate and thank them for this if they did. I expect however that the quality of the financial information will fall far short of that.
Save your congratulations. Your demands for the 49ers to open their books for the public would never be done with out a court order. It is ridiculous for our Council to make this request, since they are more than satisfied with the current arraignment. Not even Gillmor would make such a stupid and ridiculous request. Only fools keep looking for problems when none exist.
This article isn’t about the 49ers accounting systems. It’s about — entirely based on — numbers reported by the Santa Clara Finance Dept., which are actual dollars that have been collected. Are you suggesting that Santa Clara’s accountants are dishonest? Are you suggesting that Santa Clara’s books aren’t audited? As I have said, all of these reports are online. You can check them for yourself.
Also, this article isn’t a management review of the Levi’s Stadium.
I suggest you totally ignore any and all comments from BuchserAlum. He is on a personal crusade to promote himself and his views in discrediting the Stadium Agreement our City has with the 49ers. But unable and unwilling and incapable and too stupid to accomplishing any of these tasks on his own, he attempts to enlist and insults others to carrying out his foolish vendetta.
Thanks for informing “BuchserAlum”, what your article is all about. Glad you provided him with the resources to follow through on his own, if he so desires.
The clear purpose of the publication of this piece was to counter the narrative that had been put out by Becker and Chahal and Hardy opponents that the stadium had not made the city any money since 2017.
So of course the scope of the article is chosen in order to best do this. Other nonpartisan publications would or should provide context that you provide such as the fact that the stadium pays debt service that will eventually cease to be an obligation and that the stadium had made profits in earlier years. But I think they would go beyond and also discuss how the net profits from earlier years disappeared after 2017 though the Forty Niners revenues continued to go up until 2020. Despite the fact that there was the weeknight curfew from the start.
And other nonpartisan publications would also cover the fact that access to stadium accounting and auditing thereof has been a clear point of contention. It is one of the primary reasons why this dispute exists and is a critical point to any story about stadium finances unless the point of the story is to make a political points in favor of the Forty Niners.
The bias of Silicon Valley Voice is very obvious. I have wondered if perhaps you and your colleagues feel that the Forty Niners is the lesser of two evils. Whether it is Becker or Gillmor who is mayor for the next four years but especially if it is Becker I hope that you cease treating the Forty Niners so glaringly uncritically. It is the role of the fourth estate to serve not only as a watchdog of government but also big businesses and the rich. This is especially true when a big business can spend big money in order to get the government that will serve them best and not the people.