49ers forgot that people drive to work on weekdays, can’t accommodate any Monday Night Football

That $1.3 billion San Francisco 49ers stadium has a small problem, it turns out:

The Niners have always counted on neighboring businesses and other outfits to provide 21,000 parking spaces on game days for fans at Levi’s Stadium.

That will work fine on Sundays, when no one’s toiling away at those businesses. It will be a different story, however, if 68,500 fans converge for a 5:30 p.m. kickoff and all those lots are full of employees’ cars.

The upshot: No Monday night (or Thursday night) football for the team’s inaugural season in Santa Clara next year, and maybe not after that, either.

“It’s a busy area. We are still formulating all of our parking,” said Santa Clara City Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor, who also sits on the stadium authority.

“Formulating” here seems to mean “begging local employers to rent them more spots, and so far coming up empty.” It’s not a disaster for the 49ers if they’re shut out of MNF — ESPN’s TV rights money goes into the general league pool, so the 49ers don’t see any direct loss of revenue from not being able to play on Monday nights. Still, it’s a loss of marketing ability, not to mention kind of an embarrassment to the team and the league not to be able to showcase its newest stadium and its groundbreaking wifi network. Something’s going to have to give here eventually, but it’s not clear yet what it’ll be.

32 comments on “49ers forgot that people drive to work on weekdays, can’t accommodate any Monday Night Football

  1. I think that ESPN might have a problem with removing the home games of one of the league’s premier teams from the pool of potential MNF games. It’s not an enormous deal, but it does decrease the value of what they bought a little bit.

  2. It hurts the NFL as a whole, definitely. The 49ers in particular less so, though the Yorks are probably going to get a cranky phone call from Goodell.

  3. Since when does the NFL care about things like parking around the stadium when making its schedule? I wouldn’t be surprised if the 49ers got a weeknight home game scheduled regardless of whether this has been figured out or not.

  4. It also has some impact on competitive balance. Either the 49ers play fewer Monday nights (a good thing for them) or the Mondays they play will all be road games (a bad thing).

  5. The bigger problem is shutting the stadium out of college football national championship bidding. The title game gets played on the second Monday after Jan 1.

  6. Was this simply a stadium/sports team’s freeriding attempts coming back to bite them quickly or poor planning on the part of the team/city?

  7. The stadium was a rush job built without any firm commitments about area business parking lots. The city council assumed that everyone was as excited about having the team as them and would bend over backwards to accommodate that (council member Lisa Gilmore is amazingly trying to get companies to clear out their lots early FBO of the stadium).

    The implication of this posting is that things will be “ok” on Sundays and that’s not at all clear. Companies see more risk/hassle/downside to letting out lots (which is a complicated process as leases are very specific about what one can do with a parking lot) than advantages (after all, in the end we’re not really talking big money to them).

    I’ve been saying for seven years that you really have to live here to know what it’s like and fully understand the mediocrity of, and “echo chamber” environment the council (I mean Stadium Authority) operates in. This is an example of that.

  8. Thank you for the insight, Jay. It sounds like most other cities; irrational hope by boosters that everyone else will bend over backwards to help them out and somehow thousands of commuters will magically travel to and from the stadium with no disruption.

    I’m looking forward to the parking lot that my downtown will become when we open our new stadium. Ugh.

  9. Of all the issues people brought up with the Niners stadium parking was the only one I totally agreed with. I used to work in a building right across the street from the Levis Stadium site and I could tell you there was no way we were opening up our company parking lot to football fans even on weekends to say nothing of work days. Football fans are a messy bunch and our company didn’t want to deal with the hassle of cleaning up after them. And forget weekdays. We were a 24/365 operation. We needed our parking for our employees.

  10. Interestingly, Levi’s Stadium is hosting a Friday game between Cal and Oregon on 10/24 next year. It has been speculated that Cal is unable to accommodate the Pac-12 edict that all schools must host weeknight games. Thus, they put the game at Levi’s.

  11. Council Member Kevin Moore proudly held up an enlarged aerial view of the stadium area to point out that ‘there are > 40,000 parking spaces within a short walk to the stadium.’ Of course, the Council majority thought it would be easy to get private businesses to sign up their parking lots as part of the stadium parking district.
    Apparently, private businesses, their attorneys and insurance carriers said ‘No’ in droves. All of the news on bad fan behavior in stadium parking lots hasn’t helped.

    See the Santa Clara Plays Fair mainpage for the map from the City’s TMOP (Transportation Management and Operations Plan) for the stadium, which shows in red outline the number of businesses which said ‘No’ to stadium patron parking. It’s a huge number of parking lots – and that’s ‘No’ on weekends. And the light green areas are residential – there’s not supposed to be parking in residential areas either.

    If you click on the link on Traffic (top middle of SCPF website) you can see the map showing the Council’s wishful thinking regarding how many parking lot owners would sign up. Then scroll down to see how many lots were crossed off of that list.

    The Cal-Oregon game is going to be a mess. Commute traffic on 101 is already jam packed on a normal Friday – and the people leaving town for the weekend are on top of that. Cal patrons are being told to take Amtrak – but the TMOP shows it can accommodate only 700 people, and the last train leaves to head back to the East Bay near the start of the 7:30 pm Cal-Oregon game (unless the train schedule is changed to accommodate the game.)

    It has been known for quite some time – and Jed York said publicly- that weeknight games would be a problem and that the 49ers were willing to forgo weeknight games. The Council is delusional to think that private businesses would send their employees home early on a workday to free up parking, especially when those businesses have said ‘No’ to Sunday games. It isn’t just the mess – it’s the liability.

    And the TMOP makes it the responsibility of business owners to keep people out of their parking lots. So the business owners now have to pay for security/gates etc. to keep stadium patrons out of their lots.

  12. Here’s Council member Lisa Gillmor on TV saying that they are going to look for ‘creative’ ways to work with employers to free up parking lots for stadium patrons.

  13. Jed York specifically stated that he is foregoing weeknight games, both Monday and Thursday night games because there is zero dedicated parking spaces owned by the stadium.

    It looks like Levi’s Stadium has just realized what that means … This appears to be the first NFL stadium constructed with ZERO dedicated patron parking!! Can you say stupid! Santa Clara stadium boosters, Niners and the NFL KNEW all about the mess that lack of parking would create. Next glossed over and ignored realities: traffic gridlock and deafening airplanes directly over the stadium (stadium is IN San Jose’s flight path)!

    Liars and Dreamers … Meet reality.

  14. I do not think this is such a big issue at its being made out to be…it is read meat for the folks who keeping yelling that this stadium is even taking food away form starving children in Africa.

    There will be MNF and TNF games after year 1. The whole issue here is companies seeing no advantage to letting the 49ers “control’ their own parking spaces. These spaces controlled by the 49ers would be sold as pre-paid to ST holders.

    Companies in the area have decided that they will rather ‘control’ their own lots and charge the amount they want. No need to give a cut of that to the 49ers. Currently my wife’s company down the block will be charging $50 to park on game days.

    This is similar two the handful of companies just outside of candlestick park are doing,

  15. SCT, the map is interesting, they’re lucky my company was bought out and the building subsequently occupied by a new company. Because it’s not one of the few that have said yes to parking (and they have over 1100 spots on site for the team to use). If my company were still there the likely answer would have been no as well. That said, it’s probably for the best that the spaces around Old Ironsides Drive have by and large turned them down. I remember trying to get out of that particular area on the 4th of July after the Great America fireworks and it was an absolute horror show.

  16. Dan: More and more companies (especially those who’s customers are non-local, which is a greater and greater percentage every day) are 24/365 operations. The idea that any portion of their sites would be “unused” is false.

    As Geuy says, why would companies who have paid to create their own parking sign deals with the 49ers allowing the club to earn money from the companies’ investment? They own the parking. They should earn the revenue from it.

  17. @ Jon Bladen – You’re correct, and this is particularly true for tech companies, of which Santa Clara has many. In addition, because SC owns its own electric utility, and rates are lower than PG&E, many businesses have decided to locate here, particularly those which are electricity intensive and want a more stable (i.e. avoid blackouts) system, which SC’s electric utility offers.

  18. John, I was thinking that as well. I’m sure some of those companies will eventually open their lots up, but it’ll be as privately run parking by the companies or someone they hire directly. Why should they cut the Niners in for using their directly owned or leased property? It’s like the folks who open their front yards up for parking around the Marlins stadium but on a larger scale. I’m sure the liability issues alone will keep some lots closed regardless but I’m sure that the reality is that more lots will be available than SC Plays Fair thinks will be, but less than the Niners would like (and even fewer that they control).

  19. Imagine if your a company has a 1000 spaces, at $50 each. thats $50k a game x 10 games = $500k, and thats just football. Any other events at the stadium will pad that number. With that type of potential why would you give any of that money to the 49ers?

    This is a PR move by the 49ers to move the needle and make SC allow them to build some type of parking they control at or near the stadium.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there was enough companies that said yes but the 49ers would have to give up to much $$$ to them. So they decided to come out and say there is not enough and the city has to address it.

  20. The SC City Council is now trying to move the Youth Soccer Park (next to the stadium) somewhere else. A huge hue and cry was raised when the City considered moving the soccer park to the only nature preserve Santa Clara owns, Ulistac Nature Area. Many groups came out against the City on that issue, as well as the San Jose Mercury News (google SJ merc news and Ulistac.)

    The latest idea is to allow parking on the golf course on the other side of Tasman. The golf course is constructed on the old SC City landfill, which is still generating methane, hence the methane collection system there is still receiving methane. At shoreline park down the road from SC, cooking of food isn’t allowed because it’s built on an old landfill which is still generating methane. So we don’t see how any tailgating would be allowed on SC’s landfill.

    The City is now considering a proposal to develop the landfill into residential and retail and office space. Of course the news reports neglect to focus on the landfill aspect of this area – the news reports are focused on the area as a golf course ( a suitable use for a closed landfill.) So even if the landfill/golf course is used for stadium parking now, that’s a short term solution if they’re going to develop the area.

    All along the City Council and 49ers said that there would be no loss of use of the soccer park or golf course on game days, and that both facilities would be open for business on NFL game days, and now we find out that – sorry! – those facilities aren’t usable on game days – just shows how much our City Council was willing to say anything to get the stadium ballot measure to pass. Which is another reason why people don’t believe the City Council when they say they will solve the parking problem – they will say anything.

  21. Guey,

    Sounds good except that most companies don’t own their building and therefore don’t have the ability to do what they want with the parking lots they lease. They might in theory be able to cut out the 49ers, but not their landlords. Additionally, there are insurance consideration, security costs, porta-potty rentals, and the risk factor-what happens after a galling loss and a fan gets into the parking lot and decides to heave something through a plate glass window?

    Basically this just isn’t the windfall you might want to believe that it is. Most companies make their money by focusing on their “core” business, worrying about 49er parking takes away from that.

  22. SCJ: I think what happens is that the “fan” is caught on CCTV throwing something through the plate glass window, is tracked going to his or her car, and is then prosecuted for the offense.

    I would imagine It’s more of a concern for companies that the “non parking” fan causes those kinds of damages than those who pay to park in the lot do. Obviously, it can also be harder to track those offenders.

  23. Guey said: “…This is a PR move by the 49ers to move the needle and make SC allow them to build some type of parking they control at or near the stadium.”

    It’s certainly possible. But from the outside, it looks to me like the 9ers didn’t “forget” about parking. They thought they could prevail upon the private landowners to make their parking available at modest (or no) cost and then earn windfall profits off same. They may even have expected that the city would demand that the lot owners co-operate… I’m pleased to see both plans have thus far failed.

    Save the cost of making your own facility, but earn the money you’d make off it all the same. It’s what the NFL is all about: We pay for nothing, we take every dime of revenue directly created and as much of the ancillary revenues as we can extract. And we don’t care how many schools, hospitals, police or fire stations you have to close or sell to pay us our Vig. Hey, don’t all non profits operate like that?

    Of course, it won’t impact the 49ers for long. They’ll demand that the city build them a parking structure sooner rather than later. Out of a pervasive fear of a non-existent threat (the team is bound to the city by lease now), they’ll throw even more tax dollars at the Yorks.

  24. SCJ,

    of course companies make their money on there “core” business, no one is debating that.

    but in my career any time you have an opportunity to make 6 figures on something that requires minimal effort, people (company/landord/who ever) will jump all over it.

    The issues you point out pose a minimal risk compared to the reward.

    At all parking areas i been in, users assume all liability. I can’t image if they did have a rent a cop and a few port a pottys it would not cost more than a few hundred dollars a day.

    I know SC folks want this parking issue to fit the narrative that the stadium is a horrible thing and all fans are hoodlums/gangmembers/bad people, but this “lack of parking” issue is over $$$.

    Smart business people at these companies or landlords see the potential to make significant $$$, like JB said from infrastructure they have built. So no way are they going to get ‘cut’ out of it. With all they have to do is ‘gasp’… Let people park in their empty parking lots.

  25. JB,

    I totally agree with you, with my PR comment i was implying what you said. The 49ers thought the windfall was for them and now they see that other people want it to. Now “we need parking” hahah…

  26. Not that area landowners will necessarily be any more likely to contract their parking to the Niners on weekends, but hasn’t Sunday night football pretty much become the marquee property now?

    Personally, I like MNF with Gruden/Tirico better than most of the recent iterations, but the Sunday night games do seem to have taken over the crown as the premium TV property from my perspective.

  27. Agreed that if companies could charge enough there will be absolutely no parking problems. FWIW I work about two miles from the stadium in a mixed complex with about 600 slots–not walking distance, but a shuttle possibility. I asked an individual this evening who would be in a position to make a call on allowing parking and he said he would allow it (for the right cut) but doubted that the landlord would because of concerns about the landscaping and facilities.

    Still, one has to say it looks bad and didn’t go according to plan for the 49ers to mail out season tickets with no information about where the patrons parking will be. Some of the businesses saying no will probably say yes eventually and others will remain no

  28. Why not rent out your private parking lot to NFL fans?

  29. Guey,
    If you have buddies on the SC Council, be sure to let them know that they don’t have to convert the youth soccer facility to stadium parking as you know that the private lots will come to an agreement and we have no parking worries. Thank you

  30. Some have forgotten, that that “whole” argument that the Yorks used for moving the stadium to Santa Clara was – Parking, Transit, Access, & Fan Game Day Experience. Which has all turned out to be one “big lie.” If anything the opposite was true of the prospective San Francisco Stadium Sites where there was acres of parking at HP, and “not” of the Santa Clara Stadium site, due to lack of land at the site. But as far as ownership was concerned, & the Local Elected Officials of Santa Clara it was, “we’ll Lie to their faces, and they won’t be able to do a darn thing about it!”

    Also what adds insult to injury about this matter is that the Yorks, our Local Media, and the Elected Officials of Santa Clara KNEW these issues existed with this Stadium Site, because they were told repeatedly by the folks who opposed the stadium….But all chose to ignore these true FACTS, and now the small City of Santa Clara must deal with this issue, due to the stupidity of the Santa Clara Elected Officials, & the NFL Commissioner, who okayed the Stadium. All I can say to Santa Clara is “good luck” trying to deal with overwhelming crowds, vehicles, & traffic, you’ll need a shoe-horn trying to get all those folks into that small condensed area of Santa Clara! Oh, & please hold the responsible Elected Officials accountable, in the forthcoming elections in your City for this mess!