25 April 2007

49ers and (some of) the details

Good session tonight. The 49ers seem to be improving on the PR front. Before I get into that, here's what I got out of the council session.

  • The current stadium estimate is $854 million, including $111 million in inflation costs associated with a 2010 construction start date.
  • 81% of the project funding would come from the team, the NFL, and various advance stadium revenue sources (more on that later).
  • 19% would come from $160 million in City-derived funding.
  • That $160 million contribution does not include money for a garage that would have to be built to accommodate parking requirements for Cedar Fair, the company that currently owns and operates Great America.
  • The contribution also does not include money for a potential relocation of the on-site power substation. The Merc pegs this cost at $20-30 million.
  • The league's G-3 loan program has been exhausted and it is not known if the 49ers will be able to utilize the "club seat waiver" facility used for other stadiums. The league and the team are still working on the source.
  • The team would cover cost overruns.
  • A stadium authority would be created to collect project revenues, own and operate the stadium.
  • Some revenue would be captured for use in a stadium improvement fund, which would be utilized every 5-7 years.

What isn't known is what the stadium authority actually is. Sure, it's a quasi-public governing body, just as the Coliseum Authority or a mass transit joint-powers authority is. Beyond that, we're getting into a gray area. When one resident asked if the stadium authority was really just an extension of the city (and as such the city would be liable for financing), 49ers CFO Larry MacNeil simply said that the project would not touch the city's general fund.

Okay, but that doesn't answer the question. Stadium authorities are sometimes created to pool resources from various jurisdictions, but that doesn't appear to be the case here as the team would be dealing almost entirely with the city. If the authority is asked to issue bonds and the city owns the authority and the stadium, then it stands to reason that the city is ultimately responsible for a lot of the debt service. Honestly, it makes sense for the 49ers to ask the city to move in this direction since it would allow for access to lower interest and/or tax-free bonds. MacNeil was very careful not to specify which method of city funding would be required. One more interesting tidbit: the Authority would hire 69 full-time employees once the stadium is up and running.

Notice the fine print in the "Stadium Authority Project Funding" line item. There's a ticket tax, naming and pouring rights, the usual suspects. But there's also one other item that doesn't look that familiar: Stadium builders licenses. Care to guess what those are?

The team predicts that almost 50,000 game attendees would travel by car and park in the nearby area, which has 32,500 parking spaces within 1.5 miles. The other 18,000 would travel via some mode of public transit.

While I can't argue with the charter bus estimate, the light rail number is overly optimistic. If anything, I can see it used by people who want to park at a VTA Park-n-Ride station (Great Mall, Tamien, Evelyn) and want to avoid parking fees and hassles. Those people would be missing out on tailgating. Tailgating is much more integral to a football experience than any other sport, so I'm skeptical that many would willingly take this option. It doesn't help that only a limited number of 49ers fans even have access to VTA light rail. It's also not known if the VTA estimate contains Caltrain users who might transfer in Mountain View to get to the stadium. Caltrain doesn't have a station within a 3 mile drive of the stadium. A transfer would be required via light rail, bus, or even Capitol Corridor.

The block of Tasman Drive immediately north of the stadium site would be closed on gameday to allow for safe pedestrian circulation between the convention center, light rail station, and the stadium. Several major intersections would have limited or no cross-traffic to funnel stadiumgoers to and from the venue more quickly. Additionally, nearby residential neighborhoods in both Santa Clara and Sunnyvale would have restricted access to prevent fans from parking there. This policy is already in place on one day per year: Independence Day. During the fireworks show, 101 turns into a parking lot.

As for available parking, the 49ers have already talked with several nearby office park landowners and businesses about using some of their spaces. The landowners would get the majority of the parking revenue, while the rest would go to the Authority via parking fees and the remaining revenue cut. Yahoo! bought a large swath of land located kitty corner from the nearby Hilton, and while I don't think they'll design their parking facility strictly with football parking revenue generation in mind, they may want to figure out ways to bring fans in to check out Yahoo! technologies in the nearby tech showcase center. On a related note, West Valley-Mission Chancellor Stan Arteberry endorsed the project, no doubt seeing dollar signs in potential parking revenue (Mission College is slightly under 1 mile southwest of the stadium site).

I'll end tonight with one more table that shows the various costs and revenue sources. Keep in mind that the revenue projections shown are net of debt service. I'll have more thoughts on these numbers tomorrow.

Update 11:30 AM - There were a few more observations I wanted to put into the original post but it was getting late and my brain was fried.
  • Vice Mayor Kevin Moore suggested the possibility of building flexible space into the stadium that could be used for offices, retail, or even an annex for the Convention Center across the street.
  • 49 officers would be required on game days for all manner of functions. Some would come from surrounding jurisdictions such as Sunnyvale and San Jose, possibly the Sheriff.
  • When the parking and traffic diagram was shown, I couldn't help but think of FedEx Field, which has a similar sprawling parking structure. What Santa Clara has over Landover, MD is a vastly superior freeway infrastructure.
  • A better parallel may be Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The venerable "Murph" is in the middle of several freeways and a few major arterial roads. Tasman Drive has its equivalent down south in Friars Road, an east-west arterial that repeatedly gets clogged before and after home games.
  • The team intends to have the CEQA process start in August or September, making the window for the council to make a decision on the project only 3-4 months.
  • Santa Clara residents may have a shuttle available to them from an offsite parking lot only they can use.
  • Debt service on the facility would run 25 years. The lease would be 30 years.