To win the Super Bowl, the City of San Francisco played ball.
An independent office of the Budget and Legislative Analysis review disclosed mid-January that there was "no written agreement between the Host Committee and San Francisco of any kind," an arrangement SF Weekly now describes as a "handshake deal."
The cost of the Super Bowl, which appears to rise by the moment and doesn't account for SFMTA workers asked to volunteer their time during the lead-up to the event, has been worked out to be roughly $5.3 million.
By contrast, Santa Clara and the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, which oversees Levi's Stadium, worked to sign documents underscoring liability from the NFL and providing for up-front payment of $4 million.
The office of the Budget and Legislative Analysis review went on to recommend that the Board of Supervisors request the Mayor to "immediately enter into a formal agreement, subject to Board of Supervisors approval, with the Host Committee that provides for full reimbursement of the City’s estimated General Fund expenditures of $4,881,625, as the City of Santa Clara has done."
Defenders argue that the lack of a deal was strategic. Super Bowl Host Committee spokesperson Nathan Ballard explains that the terms of the bid, which were never subject to public review, were worked out privately in order to provide San Francisco with an advantage in its bid. "The bid was designed to compete with other cities," Ballard explains, "and — since we plan on competing for future Super Bowls — we have no interest in revealing our winning formula to our competitors."
The ball started rolling in 2012 when the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution supporting the Host Committee's ability to bid on the event. But Supervisor John Avalos, who signed off on that resolution, feels cheated. "The 2012 resolution says, 'Go bid.' It doesn't say, 'Go and give away the store.' It doesn't say, 'Don't come back to us,'" Avalos said.
"I expected this would come back to us like the America's Cup did," Avalos added, but of course that wasn't to be. "They went completely around us. It was a shadow government effort to circumvent the public process.... This is how our pay to play system works... I've never seen anything like it. It's incredible."
Still others, notably Supervisor Mark Farrell, maintain that the time for disagreement over this has long passed. In a Chronicle opinion piece yesterday, Farrell wrote that "the time for debating whether investing pennies to earn pounds is wise was three years ago. Or two years ago."
Like Mayor Ed Lee has done, the Supervisor likens the Super Bowl to a civic celebration on par with Pride and Fleet Week. "Sure, the Super Bowl festivities will sometimes create inconveniences for our residents," he writes. "But the direct beneficiaries of Super Bowl 50 will be hundreds of local businesses, thousands of local workers, and — thanks to the $13 million going to charity — tens of thousands of Bay Area youth." Among the recipients there are the Brava theater, whom Mission Local reports will use their $200,000 grant to expand and renovate.
According to a study by the accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, it's possible the big event could turn out in the city's financial favor. The Business Times reports that more than $220 million in visitor spending is expected, placing it among the largest ever. "That is money that is being retained that would not exist except for the Super Bowl," said Adam Jones, the leader of PwC's sports advisory practice.
But while the big game will be won and lost on Sunday, the results for San Francisco may not be clearer until much farther down the line.