With the NFL lockout finally over, the blogwaves are afire with talk of how the league’s new collective bargaining agreement will affect various teams’ stadium campaigns. We’ve already seen a report that the San Diego Chargers could get up to $150 million in NFL stadium funds, another that the San Francisco 49ers and Raiders could pool their stadium credits to get $300 million for a shared stadium, and still others that AEG’s planned Los Angeles stadium could get a cut. (The Minnesota Vikings could also be in line for funds, though apparently they’ve already been counting that particular chicken before it hatched.)
So how much money is really available, and where is it coming from? The press reports are maddeningly incomplete and contradictory, but this is, to the best of my knowledge, what’s going on:
- Back in olden times, the NFL had a program called “G-3,” which allowed home teams to keep the visitors’ share of club seat revenues to use to help pay off new stadium costs. Initially implemented to help convince NFL teams to remain in large markets — it was originally concocted, in fact, by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who limited it to the top six media markets, of which he just happened to play in #6 — it was eventually expanded to the whole league. Then the program ran out, and the flow of funds stopped.
- The successor to G-3 — which, sadly, won’t be called G-4 — instead takes a 1.5% cut off the top of NFL revenues, and allocates it to stadium projects. (Sources disagree over whether this comes entirely out of the players’ share or the owners would contribute as well.) At $9 billion a year in total league revenues, that would imply $135 million a year in stadium credits — though apparently the math isn’t nearly so simple, which may explain why this article says only $95 million. Still, that’s a huge amount of money, enough over ten years pay off about $734 million in stadium bonds. (It’s not $950 million in stadium bonds because payments ten years from now aren’t worth the same as payments now.)
- That huge number notwithstanding, scuttlebutt is that only three teams will be allowed to tap the new stadium loan fund, with rumors putting a cap at $150 million per team. That’d mean that from among the 49ers, Raiders, Vikings, Chargers, any team moving to L.A., and maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars, at least a couple of teams would get left out in the cold. Unless the NFL expanded the program again, which it seemingly would have the money to do.
All in all, this is a good thing for both teams wanting to build stadiums and for taxpayers not wanting to put their own money into stadiums, as this is the NFL recognizing that — because of its weird status as a league where the vast majority of revenue comes from national TV contracts — if it wants to encourage teams to stay in big markets and avoid killing the Fox golden goose, it needs to subsidize stadiums with its own money. Of course, it also could end up helping grease the wheels for some otherwise stuck stadium projects that would still involve some taxpayer money — $150 million per stadium doesn’t go all that far — so in that sense, not so good. But in the grand scheme of things, billionaires voting to spend some of their own billions on projects to increase their billions is nothing to sneeze at.