Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tough Love

San Jose Mercury News sports columnist Tim Kawakami comments on an interview with SF 49er owner Denise DeBartolo-York:

HURRY UP SANTA CLARANS! Denise D-Y demands your fealty! You will watch her 2-8 football team and you will LOVE IT. AND HER! AND YOU WILL PAY HER! NOW!!!!

The 49ers are losing 2-8 this year, so far. They were 7-9, 4-12, and 2-14 in the last 3 seasons. And yet they want Santa Clara to subsidize their stadium to the tune of $287,000,000, by our estimates.

Compare and contrast...

The New England Patriots are 10-0 this year, so far. They were 12-4, 10-6, and 14-2 in the last 3 seasons. They built their stadium entirely with private financing. And Patriot fans did not need to buy personal seat licenses, either.

Support our Niners! Make them pay for their own darn stadium!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

White elephant

white elephant, n. 1. an Indian elephant of a pale color that is sometimes venerated in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and [Burma]; 2a. a property requiring much care and expense and yielding little profit; 2b. an object no longer of value to its owner but of value to others; 2c. something of little or no value. Merriam-Webster Online.
White elephants are rare albinos that are highly prized by the kings of Thailand, Burma and other Asian countries. Thanks to their special status, they don't have to work as beasts of burden, like their normally pigmented cousins. However, just like regular elephants, they are large animals with large appetites. Therefore giving someone a white elephant is considered both a gift and a curse.

According to Mahidol University (Thailand,) because of ...
... the inordinate cost of maintaining a white elephant ... [such a] gift could easily induce bankruptcy if not also accompanied by a grant of land. So singular an honor as a white elephant could obviously not be refused, but without land it was subtly barbed -- an indirect criticism which apparently cooled the heels of excessively ambitious minions.
So instead of "Oh boy, we are going to own a billion-dollar stadium, and it will only cost us a couple of hundred millions," maybe we should be asking "Why do we have to pay $222,000,000 to scoop up elephant droppings?"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The cold, cruel truth

These words of wisdom are from Ray Ratto's recent article on the A's stadium — Time to call A's owner for crying wolf on stadium — but the analysis holds just as true for the current San Francisco 49ers' request for a massive public subsidy from the City of Santa Clara . . .

the cold, cruel truth, proven again and again by economists everywhere, is that stadiums have not paid off for anyone except for the team owners.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Starbucks on Mars

The article is almost a year old — A stadium in Santa Clara? You'll be dead before it happens — but every time I read this line . . .

There will be a Starbucks on Mars before there's a 49ers stadium in Santa Clara.

. . I have just a little hope that fiscal sanity will triumph over reckless spending in Santa Clara. [And if it doesn't, maybe the latte run will be just a bit more exciting.]

Thanks Scott Ostler!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A quick thought

If contributing $222,000,000 and 15 acres of land to a project AND assuming the risks of stadium operations were such a great deal, why can't the San Francisco 49ers find private investors willing to invest private money into this project?

The fact that they have turned instead to the City of Santa Clara to ask for a massive public handout for this project is perhaps the best evidence that this enormous gift of public money is a poor investment.

One of Silicon Valley's many claims to fame is its venture capital firms, and if the 49ers can't find private investors in this area (or anywhere else, for that matter) to partner with them, then they should not expect the City to provide the money for them.

The New England Patriots have proven that football stadiums can be built with little to no public assets. The 49ers should take a page from their play book.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Two teams, one stadium

Mercury News sportswriter Ann Killion raised an interesting idea in a recent column — maybe the 49ers and Raiders should build a stadium together, just as the New York Jets and New York Giants are doing.

As Killion writes in her article "A's, 49ers trailing on stadium scoreboard"

Football stadiums are a questionable investment for everyone except a football team. Because of their size, they can be used only for NFL games, the occasional big soccer game, random bowl game or rare mega rock concert. NFL football stadiums are guaranteed for only 10 dates a year. Factor in the handful of other events suitable for such a venue, and you're lucky to push that number to 15 events a year.

And that's worth almost a billion dollars?

If it could be built and operated with private funding, a joint stadium would certainly make much more economic sense. Whether such a stadium — even one funded privately — would fit in Santa Clara, however, is still an open question.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What about the intangibles?

"Your lovin' gives me such a thrill. But your lovin' don't pay my bills."

"Money (That's What I Want)" Written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford; made famous by four Englishmen from Liverpool
So far, most of us who are opponents of the stadium subsidy have focused exclusively on the financials, because it is after all our money, and it is a lot of our money -- about $2000 per resident!

At the SCPF press conference, we were asked "What about the intangibles?" In other words, what about the supposed prestige * of having an NFL team in our city.

In a nutshell, "Intangibles don't pay my bills!"

But as long as we're examining non-economic impacts, there are are plenty of other issues that we have not looked at. Here are just two:
  1. Crime: two weeks ago, there were two shootings in the parking lot of a Bay Area football stadium, one before and one after a game.

    Our neighbors in Sunnyvale looked at potential impacts of a stadium, back in February. Their report can be found here. They found that at Monster Park on 49er game days, the police have to deal with
    ... drunk in public, fights, and auto burglaries. During an average game, SFPD makes six arrests, issues three misdemeanor and 25 infraction citations, and reports one traffic collision. (page 7)
    Is this what we want with a family-oriented amusement park next door? Or in the so-called entertainment district?

  2. Traffic: Sunnyvale's report also found that:
    Tasman Drive and Lawrence Expressway ... would likely operate at Level of Service “F” with severe traffic delays... Access between ... side streets and westbound Tasman Drive would be severely congested. (page 6)
    If it's this bad a mile down the road in Sunnyvale, imagine what it will be like at the stadium gates. Forget about coming to or going from Great America, Mission College, the Mercado, or Rivermark.
Of course, all this additional crime and traffic will cost money. Sunnyvale concluded that
An increased need for traffic and public safety services is likely. (page 8)
The hit song "Money (That's What I Want)" is an interesting parallel to the stadium subsidy, on a couple of different levels.
  1. It neatly sums up the uselessness of intangible benefits.

  2. The people who put the most into it are not the ones who got the most out of it. Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford wrote it. The Beatles got all fame and fortune.


* It's arguable there is no prestige because Santa Clara's name will not get top billing. The San Francisco 49ers have already said they will not change their name. This is not surprising -- the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys did not change their names either when they got new stadiums (in Glendale, AZ and Arlington, TX respectively.) If Santa Clara were known for anything then, it would be as a bunch of gullible patsies.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A cynical observer

A few weeks ago, Mercury News sportswriter Tim Kawakami had some interesting observations on the San Francisco 49ers' Santa Clara stadium proposal.

As he wrote in his post "The 49ers’ Ashley Lelie: A weird symbol of a confusing franchise",

The 49ers are asking for about $200M in public money (which I believe will probably be jacked up to $250M at some point), and yet they can just go ahead and say, well, why don’t we just purchase and operate a theme park while we’re at it?

This makes sense? To whom? Perhaps in the near future the Yorks can just ask Santa Clara for $2 billion and then decide to buy SeaWorld, too. Lots of syngery there, I’m sure.

I hope you'll follow the link above and read the post for yourself (the stadium issue is about halfway through the post.)