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Stadium Authority Board Wants Better Assessment of Community Room Rental Rates at Levi’s Stadium

Contention over funding and access to a public meeting room at Levi’s Stadium prompted the Santa Clara Stadium Authority Board to reject a City Manager recommendation.

At Tuesday night’s Stadium Authority Board meeting, Walter Rossman, the City’s Chief Operating Officer, told the Council that the 49ers Management Company (ManCo) has offered $25,000 in grant money to community groups that wish to use the room.

The proposed agenda item, signed by Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada and Executive Director of the Stadium Authority Deanna Santana, recommended the Board allocate another $25,000 a year from the Stadium Authority Board discretionary fund to subsidize those groups who may not qualify for the ManCo grant. Groups using the room would pay an average of $2,500 for the minimum four-hour reservation. That cost does not include catering or audio-visual support, which would increase the cost.

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Santana told the Board that ManCo has agreed to make “equal or better” accommodations should the use of the community room conflict with other stadium events for which it would be unavailable because of security issues. She called the $25,000 ManCo grant a “generous offer.”

Much of the discussion regarding the room dealt with the room’s location and the cost of renting it, with many saying its location is unsuitable and that the price for renting it exorbitant.

Public meeting mainstay Deborah Bress accused the team of “shenanigans,” calling it “disgusting.”

“This is our building. Why are we getting permission from ManCo? Tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine,” Bress said. “Somebody needs to remind them they don’t own the joint. We do.”

Stadium Authority Board Chair Lisa Gillmor called the situation “despicable,” calling the room, located on the lower level of Levi’s Stadium, a “windowless cave.”

“Maybe that is the point: charge so much and make it unattractive,” she said. “We want to make sure that the promises that were made are the promises that were kept.”

Nobody knew whether the original provisions for the stadium specified where the community room was to be located.

Stadium Authority Board Member Patricia Mahan and Chair Gillmor said they seemed to recall that the room was to be put on the main concourse near the museum and team store. However, City Attorney Brian Doyle said he has been unable to find any documentation that stipulates where the community room was supposed to be located.

Public meeting mainstay Hosam Haggag went a step further, calling the room a “dungeon,” comparing it to a “maximum security prison.” He said if $2,500 is what it costs to rent the room, the Board should charge the team back rent for all the time it has been using it for other purposes.

Tino Silva, a Santa Clara resident, said the low grant amount will cause “infighting” as community organizations compete for that money. City employees should take a closer look at how the amount charged to rent the room is established.

The Board concurred.

“We can do a lot better,” said Stadium Authority Board Member Kathy Watanabe. “We deserve a lot better.”

The Board unanimously opted to refer the item back the City Manager’s Office, rejecting the recommendation to approve allocating the money. Santana said she will return to the board in December with a breakdown of the cost structure and information about a six-to-12 month pilot program to monitor use of the room.

The Stadium Authority Board meets again 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

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