I pity the taxpayers of Santa Clara County. They are about to be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars for a billionaires play toy, the San Fran 49’ers football team.
The folks in San Fran are a bit luckier—while they will have a three year half billion deficit, at least the cost of the 49’ers is gone. How much?
“But a story that describes a $9.6 million gross revenue loss to the city’s Recreation and Parks Department, and another $4.1 million in indirect revenue to the city ignores a very big number: $200 million. That would be the minimum cost to San Francisco taxpayers of renovating Candlestick Park to keep the 49ers. City after city loses money financing sports stadiums, and this renovation would have been a terrible investment for San Francisco.”
Stop the billionaire welfare kings, like Spanos, the Maloofs and the 49’er owners. If they want a toy, let them pay for the upkeep—not you.
49ers Departure a Win for San Francisco Taxpayers
by Randy Shaw‚ BeyondChron, 4/17/12
As construction breaks ground this week on the San Francisco 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara, the San Francisco Chronicle claims that the team’s departure will be a “big hit” to San Francisco’s budget. And if all you knew about the economics of the team’s leaving came from the Chronicle’s story, this would appear true. But a story that describes a $9.6 million gross revenue loss to the city’s Recreation and Parks Department, and another $4.1 million in indirect revenue to the city ignores a very big number: $200 million. That would be the minimum cost to San Francisco taxpayers of renovating Candlestick Park to keep the 49ers. City after city loses money financing sports stadiums, and this renovation would have been a terrible investment for San Francisco. And had Mayor’s Newsom or Lee spent $200 million and more to keep the 49ers, taxpayers would have taken a really “big hit.”
It’s hard to believe with all the research available on what is either described as the great stadium “swindle” or, alternatively, as the “field of schemes” that anyone still maintains that public investment in sports stadiums is good for taxpayers. And the one city that stands out from the pack in refusing to be swindled is San Francisco. That’s why the Giants eventually had to build a stadium with private funds, and why the 49ers had to add a shopping mall targeted at creating Bayview-Hunters Point jobs to the 1997 ballot measure granting them $100 million in renovation funds.
The 1997 measure very narrowly passed despite 49er fever being at its high point and the 49ers massively outspending opponents. And the city’s commitment of $100 million to renovate Candlestick in 1997 dollars would equal at least $200 million today, and likely much more.
A Poor Stimulus Strategy
Building football stadiums is a very poor municipal economic stimulus strategy. After spending $200 million and likely more, San Francisco taxpayers would not get back much more than the less than $14 million in gross revenue. And “gross” revenue is not the city’s net gain, but rather ignores the cost of police and other services that reduce the city’s total benefits.
The 49ers play at most 13 home games a year. This creates very short-term seasonal jobs that only exist from mid-August to mid-January.
It would be hard to imagine a $200 million public investment that would do less to stimulate San Francisco’s economy than the renovation of Candlestick Park.
The 49ers playing at Candlestick injected little money into nearby restaurants, bars and local businesses. Fans bring their own food for tailgate parties, or buy food and drinks in the stadium. Once the game is over, fans drive home and do not head for nearby restaurants.
In contrast, AT&T Park is part of the Mission Bay, SOMA and downtown scene and Giant fans do eat and drink in nearby restaurants and bars before and after games. And if a new privately funded Warriors arena is built nearby, it would also have such an economic stimulating impact.
Blame Mayor George Christopher
Candlestick Park was always a bad site for a stadium. As described in Clem’s baseball blog, “a cunning developer named Charles Harney got the mayor of San Francisco to offer the Giants a large plot of rocky land on the San Francisco Bay for a new stadium with plenty of parking space, but he failed to inform the mayor or the Giants’ officials of the fierce winds and chilly night temperatures that plague that area.”
Many believe Harney was an ally of George Christopher (the City’s last Republican Mayor) and the holier-than-thou Mayor enriched his supporter at the public’s expense. Candlestick Park was a seriously flawed baseball stadium from its start in 1960, and it cost the city millions in revenue due to lost attendance.
It’s winds also cost Willie Mays the chance to overtake Babe Ruth’s homerun record, by costing the Giants great at least the 75 more homers needed to reach 715.
The 49ers did not play at Candlestick until the Fall of 1971. And while Candlestick was renovated to become a football field, and fans loved attending 49er games during the Walsh, Montana and Young years, throwing millions more of public dollars into George Christopher’s folly would have been a terrible mistake.
San Francisco taxpayers won big by saving the $200 million plus that would have been squandered at Candlestick. Those who are 49er fans will enjoy the team’s success as much as ever, without worrying about the diversion of critically needed funds to enrich a wealthy sports team owner.