The York family, owners of the San Francisco 49ers of Santa Clara and the people who never answered my certified letter about the purchase of a trough urinal from Candlestick, has called the team’s new stadium a “stadium of dreams.” I don’t know what that means, but clearly the family doesn’t have those dreams where their toes turn into snakes.
I guess what they do dream about is erecting a stadium in a Wally World parking lot so it can have nice views of urban endscapes: the HVAC on the roof of the El Camino Real Taco Bell to the east and the emerald peak of the Green Lantern roller coaster to the west.
That plus guaranteed gridlock: on the freeways, in the parking lot, on line for food, in the bathroom—ensures this taxpayer-subsidized $1.3-billion-dollar menagerie of rich tech dorks, puffed up gladiators and $5 hot dogs disguised as $14 artisanal sausage, is going to make a bigger splash than Webvan. After all, each patron gets his own urinal.
Side note: I’m sure Levi’s, owners of $220 million worth of stadium name rights, probably wishes the family would’ve said it’s a stadium of “blue jean dreams”.
But there’s something missing.
The San Francisco Giants—with a pair of World Series trophies buffeting its cause since a waterfront stadium was erected in 2000 after San Francisco voters turned down about five ballot measures to be taxed in order to build a 3-D money printer for a small ownership group—has become THE ticket in the Bay Area.
The team will eclipse its 800th consecutive sell-out, a major league record, by season’s end.
And they do it not necessarily from the quality of play or because Tim Lincecum’s hair is starting to grow back. They do it because, well, the stadium is easy to get to. Whether the home team’s in the hunt, once fans find their seats they can enjoy garlic fries and views of sail boats skipping across the whitecaps of the bay.
Regardless of what folks are paying for tickets—and they’re paying a lot (average $52 per game)—those views are of the million-dollar variety. Once a fan steps across the threshold of Willie Mays Plaza, he feels as if he just sold his cloud-based share service for $2 billion. Each brick of AT&T Park is nothing if not aspirational and the $360-million price tag for it was shouldered 100 percent by ownership.
Conversely, the York’s financing of Levi’s in Santa Clara, otherwise known as the town Dave & Buster’s built, was not a solo act. They took the quick money upfront and turned their backs on the city still emblazoned on the team’s helmet. Construction was offset by $100 million from Santa Clara, with another $330 million borrowed from various banks by the city’s stadium authority. Racketeer financial services group Goldman Sachs rounded up another $850 million and the NFL loaned the stadium authority about $200 million.
Of course, the NFL, a profitable nonprofit to the tune of $15 billion/year, will get paid back. So will Goldman. So will the city of Santa Clara and so will the 49ers owners.
This means two things:
1) Levi’s Stadium was not built for people, it was built for corporations. Almost 20 percent of the seats (9,000) are club level. This keeps the fans away from the action and pumps them into stores and restaurants. The stadium also features an NFL-first 165 luxury suites which means Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk can go grab a hot dog and a brew, watch what’s going on on the field via flatscreen and leave by the middle of the third quarter.
2) The workaday fans who actually do pony up for the remainder of the seats (See: great views of roller coasters and a four-hour queue to park) are going to have to pay a pretty penny for the privilege of being on the outside looking in at the rich; watching football in a stadium where crowd noise is a factor in the restrooms only.
How much are tickets for the commoners? It depends. The 49ers now have a variable pricing system similar to the Giants. The face value of the tickets changes depending on the match-up. For marquee home games (Chicago, KC, Philly and Seattle) face value of tickets starts at $106 for nose bleeds and goes up to $569 for a seat somewhere between the 30-yard line and a luxury perch. The secondary market is also taking hold. The cheapest ticket for the Seattle game on Thanksgiving starts at $350, or approximately the cost equivalent of 42 Butterball turkeys.
While the numbers vary wildly, the average ticket will cost the fan around $300. For a family of four, throw in $50 each for concessions and $50 for parking and you’ve got a tab of $1,450 for three hours of nine Sundays a season you’ll never get back.
And while some of San Francisco’s somnolent scribes were lulled to sleep by the cobbler station in the press box, there’s been nary a report about how there is no joy in Mudville for the 49er faithful who huddled up in gold satin jackets for more than a half century in an earthquake-ravaged mausoleum.
Indeed, what the new stadium is missing is old 49er fans.
But fear not gold rush guys and gals. With an extra thirteen grand sloshing through your pockets you can:
• Become a Kansas City Chiefs season ticket holder: Everyone knows Arrowhead is a rockin’ whether it’s a two-win campaign or if Andy Reid’s present-day refurbished unit is a division favorite. Former 49er fans will delight in seeing prodigal son Alex Smith slinging it to his dynamic, young receiving corps. Tickets to join the best tailgater in all the NFL (the barbecue alone is worth it) start at $30. Roundtrip SFO->MCI on a fall weekend averages $265 and the five-star Hilton President Kansas City averages $150/night. All in: $1,331. Enough leftover to go to a nice KC steak dinner after the game.
• Buy a house in Pittsburgh and join Steeler Nation: Everyone knows Detroit is the place to go for undervalued urban blight. But for less than the price of a 49er regular season (plus maybe a playoff game or two) you can own 1339 Romanhoff Street in the City of Bridges free and clear. With next year’s ticket money, you can start in on the renovation. The year after that, well—you’re less than a three-mile walk from Heinz Field on the shores of the mighty Allegheny, so you figure it out.
• Donate to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund. Gridiron Greats operates outside the shroud of secrecy that is the NFL and its foundation grant. It’s a charity that helps provide financial, social and medical assistance for retired and broken NFL players. The nonprofit also connects its members with pro bono therapy and dental services. NFL retirees enjoy dramatically shorter lifespans than average men—usually to the tune of two-plus decades. And most are unable to shoulder medical costs. The $765-million concussion settlement the NFL reached with the players union last year was a fraction of what the league should have ponied up (less than 0.5 percent of the league’s annual revenue stretched out over twenty years). Commissioner “though guy” Roger Goodell fucked the league’s former stars in the deal to the great delight of the melty-faced inhabitants of the owner boxes.
Our advice: A five-figure annual donation equals a lot of check-ups for the men you used to cheer on—when you could afford to go a game.
Besides, fall Sundays in the Bay Area are beautiful and just think of what you can do with all that extra time and money. As you well know from looking out over the bay during baseball season, there’s a whole ocean out there waiting to be sailed, AM radio tuned to the game. And just look at what less than half a season ($7,500) buys you in Sausalito.