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Santa Clara Stadium Authority Governing and Budget Principles Debut, Budget Shows Better-Than-Anticipated Debt Pay-Down

At Tuesday night’s Santa Clara Stadium Authority meeting the City Council/Stadium Authority reviewed Authority governing and budget principles, the 2018-19 budget and a Levi’s Stadium marketing plan.


Policies and Procedures Manual in the Works

City Manager/Stadium Authority Executive Director Deanna Santana introduced a statement of stadium management governing principles and reported that a stadium operations policies and procedures manual is being developed.


“I appreciate that we’re getting these foundational documents in place,” said Authority Member Teresa O’Neill. “We are establishing the methods by which we’re going to be held accountable. We’re going back and laying the foundations.”

Levi’s Stadium was first proposed about 10 years ago, and has been in operation since 2014.


Stadium Debt Continues to Shrink Dramatically

Levi’s Stadium budget for the coming fiscal year, 2018-19, is comparable to that of the past year, although a change in the reporting makes it appear that revenues and expenses are significantly higher.

This year the budget shows gross revenue and expenses for non-NFL events—the events where the City makes money, “performance rent.” In the past the budget only included net revenue from these events. After adjusting for the reporting change, revenues and expenses are expected to be on par with 2017-18, about $80 million and $78 million respectively.

The most important item to Santa Clara residents, however, is the money that is going to the City’s general fund: senior and youth program ticket fees and ground and performance rent.

For 2017-18 that is projected to be a total of $5.6 million—$5.1 million in performance rent. For the coming year the performance rent has been conservatively forecast at $2.7 million—comparable to 2015-16’s $2.5 million and 2016-17’s $2.9 million. The other amounts total $550,000, up from $510,000.

Next year’s budget continues the rapid pay-down of stadium construction debt. In five years outstanding construction debt has dropped from $654 million to $383 million. In the past year outstanding debt dropped $47 million, and is anticipated to drop another $37 million in the coming year.

Lower-than-expected construction and interest costs combined with higher-than-expected seat license sales and early payments reduced the total amount of long-term financing needed and likewise accelerated payoff.


Levi’s Attracts Increasing Number of Soccer Matches

Soccer games are an increasing part of the stadium’s schedule and are evidence of Levi’s Stadium’s desirability as a venue, noted Levi’s Stadium General Manager Jim Mercurio in his presentation of the 2018-19 marketing plan. Authority Member Dominic Caserta also noted that the stadium will host the “super bowl of college football,” the College Football Playoffs, in January 2019, which was another prime opportunity to market Santa Clara.

“Any time we can promote Levi’s Stadium as an asset, together, in a positive way, it’s all helpful,” said Mercurio. “People want to come here.  It’s a win-win.”

Despite the positive staidum business forecast for the coming year, Santana had several times to steer the Mayor/Authority Chair Lisa Gillmor and her allies away from their almost habitual sniping at the 49ers, at one point saying “a lot of our efforts are focused on looking forward and having the right information so we don’t have to be answering these questions three or four years from now.”


Transparency Questions

Two other issues were brought up by resident and Santa Clara Planning Commissioner Mike O’Halloran: resolution of disputed golf course parking fees—after the 49ers stopped using the golf course for parking—and an explanation of the “ongoing legal services” budget.

O’Halloran noted that the $718,000 disputed parking bill had been promoted to newspapers and television news as a key element of the “millions” Mayor/Chair Gillmor claimed was owed the City. However, since last summer nothing has been heard about it.

The answers, given by Authority Attorney Brian Doyle, were, to the parking bill question, that the disputed charge had been turned over to a collection agency; and, to the legal budget question, that the details of legal spending were “privileged” client-attorney information not subject to the California Public Records Act.

O’Halloran says that taxpayers—the “client” in this case—are entitled to the same visibility of how their money is being spent.

The stadium budget and marketing plan will be finalized at the Stadium Authority’s next meeting, March 29. You can find the March 13 meeting agenda and links to reports at


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