California: 49ers and city in another bitter row

source: /; author: michał

California: 49ers and city in another bitter row As if the partnership over Levi's Stadium operation wasn't rough enough, San Francisco 49ers once more attack the city and Santa Clara strikes back. This time over the disappointing revenue from non-NFL events.


When first opened in 2014, Levi's Stadium was advertised as being like a app: all about its high-tech features rather than looks. Clearly, the looks aren't favourable but the smart, cloud-ready rhetoric were to make up for it. After all, you have to justify spending $1.3 billion on a stadium that looks like a giant piece of steel scaffolding.

Over 4 years later no-one remembers that tech-savvy framing and lack of basic structures like any roof protecting from the heat is painfully visible. One 49ers fan reportedly died from heat exhaustion in the most exposed east stand. Pilots from nearby Mineta Airport complaing about blinding light pollution during night events, too.

The stadium's turf is also regularly ridiculed for its poor quality and that's only on top of ongoing rows between the city of Santa Clara (owner) and San Francisco 49ers (leaseholder). Their conflicts have been all over the place in recent years but perhaps the most notable is this: curfew.

Levi's Stadium© Chris Martin (cc: by)

Because the stadium is airy and produces significant noise pollution, the city has set a weekday curfew for non-NFL events to 22:00 (10pm), extended to 23:00 (11pm) on weekends. This reportedly led to a number of concerts at the venue having been scrapped during negotiations with promoters.

Some of those eventually taking place ended up exceeding the curfew by an hour, causing further arguments between the two sides. And this weeks more gasoline was poured onto this dumpster fire by 49ers forecast of non-NFL event revenue for the 2018/19 season. Instead of $5 million, as was in 4 previous seasons, the forecast suggests just $750,000.

Official justification by 49ers is, as you might expect, the curfew. “The Mayor has played politics and refused to correct, or even address, her music ban,” said 49ers Vice President of Public Affairs Rahul Chandhok, quoted by Mercury News. “Residents have lost out on millions of dollars in revenue and music lovers have been denied an opportunity to view world-class events.”

The city of Santa Clara decided not to take such punch without a response and argues that the 49ers are booking “money-loosing” events and trying to “deflect responsibility from their management performance”.

Levi's Stadium© David Shamma

“We are going to hold the 49ers to the rules they agreed to when Levi’s Stadium opened in 2014,” said mayor Lisa Gillmor in a statement. “We can have successful concerts at the stadium on weekdays and weekends and allow for people in our community who work and go to school to sleep during the week.”

Gillmor referred to a poll that showed 36% of Levi's Stadium neighbours being concerned with noise level. The curfew was indeed set to protect them from excessive noise, especially on weekdays, as they're already being affected by traffic issues.

As for the poor financial forecast for non-NFL games, the city isn't really impressed. According to the mayor's office it's a misleading statement to claim that Levi's Stadium was bringing in $5 million annually. While that revenue is true, there were also significant losses not included in the equasion, generated by non-NFL football games. After those being included, for the 2017/18 the final figure fell from $5 million to $1.7 million. Hardly impressive indeed for a nearly-70,000-capacity stadium.

“The report also found that the majority of General Fund revenue is generated through over 100 special events, ranging from corporate events to weddings and holiday parties, held at the stadium,” according to the city statement. “These events brought in approximately $1.7 million to the General Fund and have a minimal impact on neighboring residents’ quality of life.”