Building 49ers stadium creating “stadium effect,” say people who want more things built

And let’s see what’s in the papers today … hello, Oakland Tribune:

‘Stadium effect’ expected to spur office, retail, hotel development

That’s today’s headline about the new San Francisco 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, and is surprising, to say the least, given that pretty much any economist could tell you that an NFL stadium that’s dark 355 [EDIT: or 345 or 350 or whatever; see comments below] days a year is not going to encourage anyone to build much of anything nearby. (Or as the University of Chicago’s Allen Sanderson memorably put it, “There are only two things you do not want on a valuable piece of real estate. One is a cemetery, and the other is a football stadium.”) But the Tribune reports that “roughly $3 billion worth of office buildings, retail centers, hotels and residences are under construction or on the drawing boards in the vicinity of the stadium,” and that can only be because—

To be sure, some of that development would have occurred anyway because of the technology boom that has been underway for the past three years.

Okay, but really it’s because of the stadium, according to—

developers, realty executives and analysts say a considerable amount of the new activity is due to what they call the “stadium effect.”

“Developers and realty executives,” huh? What do economists, planning officials, or really anyone without a vested interest have to say about the cause of the planned developments? Reading the article all the way through … nothing. Oakland Tribune? Are you there? Are your emailing fingers broken? Hello?

Latest 49ers threat: Send parking, or we’ll kill Joe Montana’s hotel

The San Francisco 49ers‘ under-construction stadium in Santa Clara has been a reasonable deal for the public in some ways, but the whole bit about football fans needing a place to park their cars hasn’t worked out quite as smoothly. And now it may be setting some kind of record for roughness, as the Niners’ parking needs are threatening to put the kibosh on a hotel/retail/office complex being developed by, seriously, Joe Montana:

Under terms of the 2012 stadium deal, the 49ers are entitled to 789 parking spots on land where Montana’s company intends to build a hotel, stores and office space. The site is just across the street from the stadium.

“Their position has been that unless we find other parking acceptable to them, they may not allow the project to go forward,” said City Manager Julio Fuentes.

Just sharing parking spaces with the development won’t do, the team says. Niners President Larry MacNeil told city officials in a letter Feb. 10 that if Montana’s $400 million project goes ahead, Santa Clara needs to come up with 8.5 acres of replacement parking free of charge.

So far, the team has rejected most of 4,000 spaces that the city has proposed as too distant, too waterlogged or beset by other problems.

This is all part of the game of chicken the 49ers are playing with Santa Clara over parking, and will probably get worked out in the end. Still, even the prospect of a 49ers stadium not only not spurring local development, but actually preventing development being pursued by the team’s greatest player ever, stretches irony to the breaking point.

49ers renege on youth soccer field promise unless they get more parking

The Santa Clara stadium for the San Francisco 49ers may be going well in most respects, but at least there’s something for residents to be legitimately upset about:

After the San Francisco 49ers rallied support for their new stadium by promising to pay for new youth soccer fields, the NFL team isn’t following through with its part of the deal — and taxpayers will be left footing the multimillion dollar bill…

Jed York, owner of the 49ers, told the soccer league in a letter two years ago that the team would fund replacement fields. But the team’s front office shocked the soccer league last week by telling them the Niners had abandoned those plans.

“You feel betrayed or lied to,” said Matt Heintz, president of the 1,500-member Santa Clara Youth Soccer League, which had supported the new stadium that voters approved public financing for in 2010. “It sounds like they got what they wanted, they got the stadium built — and pushed us aside, brushed us under the rug.”

The current youth soccer fields won’t be usable during football season because of 49ers fan traffic, and the cost of just studying how to build new fields is estimated to be about $2 million. (The cost of actually acquiring and building the fields is unknown.) Mayor Jamie Matthews claims that the project won’t use general fund money, but it’s tough to say how he knows this, since he doesn’t even know how much it will cost, let alone how it will be paid for.
I was puzzling over why the 49ers are suddenly drawing a line in a sand over this issue — even if the cost turns out to be several million dollars, that’s a rounding error on a billion-dollar-plus project — until I got to the last paragraph of the Mercury News article:

But last week one of York’s vice presidents in the front office said in a letter to the soccer league that the local school fields they had looked into upgrading are “no longer available.” It said now the 49ers would only fund replacement fields if the soccer league was willing to give up its prized soccer park to the Niners to use for VIP stadium parking.

So from the sound of it, this is less the 49ers owners inexplicably backing away from a commitment, and more them suddenly demanding a land swap in exchange because as we know, they’re desperate for parking. Which is still backing out of a promise, but at least it’s explicable.

49ers PSLs nearing sellout, everybody can breathe easier about stadium debt

You can upgrade the San Francisco 49ers‘ seat-license sales count from “most of them” to “pretty much all of them“:

The team disclosed late Friday it has sold more than 95 percent of the seat licenses at the nearly 70,000-capacity Levi’s Stadium — up from 75 percent a year ago and 50 percent a year and a half ago. The seat licenses, which are new for the 49ers, cost $2,000 to $80,000 apiece and give fans the right to buy season tickets.

The total value of the purchased seats is believed to be roughly half a billion dollars, which Santa Clara uses to help pay for the $1.3 billion stadium, though most of the cash will be paid over time in installments.

As we’ve covered before, the healthy PSL sales mean that pretty much everyone is going to come out looking okay from the 49ers stadium deal: Santa Clara doesn’t have to worry about repaying its stadium debt, while the 49ers are reportedly set to make money hand over fist. (Federal taxpayers have to take the hit from that $120 million tax subsidy for the PSLs, but that’s the IRS’s problem for not closing that loophole. Or Congress’s, I guess.) We finally have a model for a successful stadium project, then: Build it in a market where you have a fan base rabid and rich enough that they’re willing to pay anything for a chance to buy tickets, and where naming-rights fees run into the eight digits, and you’re all set. Too bad everybody can’t play in the Bay Area

49ers agree to share parking boodle with local lot owners, may avoid MNF ban

Remember how the San Francisco 49ers weren’t going to be able to play any weeknight home games because they didn’t have enough parking? Problem solved, says the San Jose Mercury News:

The Niners now are close to locking down 31,500 total parking spots within walking distance of 69,000-seat Levi’s Stadium by the time it opens in August. That’s a 50 percent jump from the plan voters approved years ago and a 66 percent increase over infamously jam-packed Candlestick Park.

That “close to” is a tad worrisome — it looks like the only source for this claim is the 49ers themselves — but if it can be believed, it sounds like the 49ers threw enough parking money around that local business owners (and a city-owned but privately operated golf course) decided it would be worth their while to set aside spots for football fans. So yay, capitalism works in this case, and the NFL schedule makers don’t have to jump through hoops. And 49ers fans only have to pay $40 for parking, which is I guess what football fans pay for parking these days? I’m starting to understand why they’d rather stay home and watch on TV.

Look ahead to new 49ers stadium: Farewell to terrible cheap seats?

San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy said farewell to the San Francisco 49ers‘ Candlestick Park yesterday, and while he doesn’t hide his feelings for the old place (“The best of riddance, you old hunk of concrete garbage”), he does try to evaluate what the fan experience will be like at the team’s new home in Santa Clara next year. And after discussing such line items as the concourses (“43 feet wider”) and restrooms (“28 percent more plumbing fixtures”), he goes what he calls “architectural-geeky” and brings up the new stadium’s feature that will have the most impact on actually watching the game:

The vast majority of luxury boxes are located in an eight-level tower — essentially, a 12-story building — on the west side of the field. That means two things: One, there are no upper decks on the west side, just the lower bowl and the tower. And two, the east side upper decks can be closer to the ground — because it does not sit atop multiple levels of luxury boxes.

That second item isn’t trivial, as one of the hallmarks of most modern stadiums is that they have terrible upper-deck seats, thanks to those luxury suites having to be wedged in beneath them. Avoiding this by stacking all the suites on one side has been done before, though — the Atlanta Hawks‘ Philips Arena, Red Bull New York’s Red Bull Arena, and the Detroit Lions‘ Ford Field all come to mind. And as you can see from Ford Field, this makes for a somewhat unusual view facing you across the field:

Still, having to stare at a wall of glass is a reasonable tradeoff for having a better view of the game, in my opinion anyway. (Red Bull Arena is admittedly the only one of these three I’ve personally seen a game at.) Levi’s Stadium construction co-director Robert Rayborn speculates to Purdy that this layout will also make for a louder stadium, since sound will bounce off the suite wall and echo around the place; it’s hard to tell from the Ford Field example since hardly anyone has ever made noise at a Lions game, but there’s some evidence that it might be possible, anyway.

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.

Report: 49ers to clear $100m a year in profit on new stadium

This is all based on an unnamed source, but if true, it’s absolutely nuts: San Jose Mercury News reporter Tim Kawakami says that the San Francisco 49ers‘ projected profit for next year, when they move into their new stadium in Santa Clara, is $100 million. That would be up from profits of not very much (Kawakami says the team is breaking even, Forbes says it’s more like $10 million a year in profits), and would make them the fourth most profitable franchise in the NFL — even after having to pay for almost all of the cost of their new $1.3 billion stadium.

How are the 49ers expecting to manage that? Per Kawakami:

That’s thanks to the massive success of the seat-license program, the suites, the sponsorships, and all the varying relationships and deals that the 49ers have strung together in recent months and years in conjunction with the stadium opening.

If true, it certainly explains why the 49ers were willing to take on so much of the stadium cost — if they can shell out an additional $100 million a year to pay off construction and still have another $100 million a year left over, that’s seriously crazy money, and shows that NFL stadiums (or at least, NFL stadiums for winning teams in a part of the country with tons of rich people) are an exception to the rule that stadiums don’t usually earn enough in new revenue to pay back their construction costs. It also makes one wonder why other cities are shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for new stadiums for their teams when there’s potentially enough new venue revenue for them to pay their own way — not to mention whether Santa Clara could have asked for a cut of the 49ers swag in exchange for its financing piece of the deal, instead of just breaking even as it will currently.

Of course, that money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere will be 49er fans, either via their eyeballs as advertising consumers or their wallets by paying for tickets (and PSLs). And paying for other things as well:

Parking fees haven’t been set yet, but they run in the $30 to $35 range per car and up to $75 for RVs and buses at Candlestick and at Raiders games. One South Bay city official told me would not be surprised to see prices in the $40 to $50 range for cars at the new 49ers stadium. When the San Jose Sharks arena opened, fans were outraged to pay $10 to park. How much are you willing to pay to park at a 49ers game?

The answer appears to be “a lot.” Or at least, is for the rarified clientele who will make up 49ers ticketholders. Now the 49ers owners had just better hope that the team stays good and popular for the duration of the stadium bonds — and that, you know, football doesn’t get sued out of existence in the meantime.

Today in new crap they’re putting in NFL stadiums

A couple of reports on new technology that NFL teams are installing to get people off their damn sofas and into football stadiums:

If you don’t go to NFL games (or don’t drink beer — which, come to think of it, probably implies the former), you should probably still care about this stuff because it ups the ante for teams with state-of-the-art clauses that say their public landlords have to provide them with anything that enough other teams get. I don’t think any city councils have yet been presented with a bill for pneumatic beer tubes, but it’s probably only a matter of time.

49ers stadium cost now $1.3b after added “fan experience enhancements”

The San Francisco 49ers are adding about $100 million worth of goodies to their new Santa Clara stadium, mostly for unspecified tech upgrades to “enhance the fan experience.” They can afford this, in part, because their annual rent payments are expected to go down from $30 million a year to $24.5 million a year, thanks to better-than-expected naming-rights and PSL sales and a refinancing deal that will cut the public stadium authority’s loan rate from 7% to 5%.

Clearly, the 49ers stadium is turning out to be a best-case scenario, where the public costs are going to be repaid by team revenues, and the stadium can pay for itself despite a whopping $1.3 billion price tag. (You could argue that the city could have held out for an even better deal where in exchange for fronting the cash it would get to profit from all the naming-rights and PSL boodle, instead of just breaking even, but that’s a best-case scenario for a more utopian America.) It just goes to show that some stadiums can be built with private money and turn a profit — so long as they’re in major metropolitan areas flush with tech income and host teams that go to the Super Bowl. Whether this would work in, say, San Diego, is another story, though one that the Chargers might want to be asking themselves given how their stadium subsidy demands are coming along.