February 10, 2010   |2 Comments

City Council Votes to Lie to Voters on 49ers Stadium Funding

SFStadiumIt’s conceivable that all Santa Clara residents were not tuned in last night to their City Council’s 4-3 vote to include language on the ballot misrepresenting the upcoming 49ers stadium funding project. On June 8th, many Santa Clara residents will decide whether to approve a $937 million stadium project for their hometown NFL team thinking that the phrase “no new taxes for residents” actually means NO NEW TAXES FOR RESIDENTS.

The reality is something altogether different.

If approved, the measure being pushed by Santa Clarans for Economic Progress – a front group for the 49ers’ and NFL’s push to use taxpayer funds for new stadium construction in San Francisco – would seek completion of the new football stadium in 2014 with hopes of hosting the all-important Super Bowl; that golden carrot at the end of the stick. 

The controversial language which has 3 out of 7 Santa Clara City Council members so frustrated, and rightfully so, fails to “mention the $114 million package of public contributions to the project, including redevelopment money and a special tax on guests in the city’s eight hotels.” What’s $114 million between friends? 

Wait, there’s more.  The ‘no new taxes for residents’ line also rings untrue when one digs a little deeper and notices that the city plans to use stadium construction bonds in the range of $330 million hoping that they’ll make their money back on stadium naming rights, personal seat licenses, and a ticket surcharge.

Let’s pick this apart piece by piece. 

Stadium Naming Rights:

In the midst of a recession, banking on stadium naming rights is not a smart business move.  Have you noticed how thin Sports Illustrated is becoming as ad dollars dry up? Stadium naming rights are no different. Citifield tried to renegotiate their deal, but the Mets weren’t having it.  Can you imagine any corporation with the cash to put their name on this building will be ponying up similar cash for this deal?  The answer is no.  It’s a naming rights buyers market.

Personal Seat Licenses:

The price you pay to pay for season tickets is outrageous. Leave it to owners to think up new schemes to bilk sports fans for more money. Seriously?  You mean I have to pay to pay? It’s not good enough that you spent 10 years on the waiting list dreaming of having your own seats 8 games a year.  You are actually required to pay these seat licenses in advance of the season ticket bill that lands in your mailbox like clockwork once a year.

Ticket Surcharge:

There is not a better description of this charge passed directly on to sports fans than the word ‘tax’. So, the city and the team join together to build this new stadium, and tickets are, in turn, more expensive. While it is important to recognize where each penny of the total dollar figure for one 49ers ticket goes, the bottom line is that tickets will be more expensive. 

To wrap up this dissection of the additional $330 million on the tax payers backs, it is evident that funds coming from naming rights will be slim and the other two categories of ‘taxes’, personal seat licenses and ticket surcharges, will need to be expanded to make up the difference.  So, we’re not just talking about increases for inflation here. Get ready to pay to pay, and then, pay some more.

Finally, it is prudent to do the math. $117 million of redevelopment money and hotel taxes plus $330 million of construction bond funds add up to $447 million. If the stadium contruction costs stay within the $937 million budget (the team is supposed to foot the bill on any shortcomings of funding although it has been reported that there are “loopholes in this component”), only 47.7% of the budget will fall on the tax payers’ shoulders.

That’s all. Not exactly ‘no new taxes for residents’.

If recent history tells us anything, the 49ers are willing to lie to get their lies on the ballots. After the vote to approve the language, it cost the city another $390,000 to get the measure on the ballot.

It sounds like many Santa Clarans don’t know what their getting themselves into. Nor will they know any better if they walk into the voting booth without doing some research. Now, more than ever, we need SFC members to get the word out on the ground in San Francisco.

Thank goodness there are already boots on the ground in the form of Santa Clara Plays Fair fighting the misinformation campaign (see table below) through a mass email to residents explaining how the team’s campaign to deceive is succeeding. We need to keep up the fight through education, organization, and mobilization to protest sports stadium subsidies in San Francisco and across the country.


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2 Comments so far

  1. Hi, Santa Clara Plays Fair has a completely redone website with lots more information:
    You can read the details about why we have a ballot measure in which the costs are not disclosed to residents (there is no legal requirement for cost disclosure at the city level, so we are left unprotected); the details of the $444 million Santa Clara and its agencies are expected to provide; the Stadium Authority $330 million and why they’re hiding the Stadium Authority; the campaign to hide the costs from the voters; the hiding of a $67 million loss to our general fund; and the top ten reasons to vote no.

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