Without much discussion, Santa Clara city leaders signed off on spending $13.3 million for equipment and upgrades at Levi’s Stadium, months before any San Francisco 49ers fans will be allowed back inside.
Some $157,000 was budgeted for new body-worn cameras for Santa Clara officers covering games and events, $168,000 for portable license plate readers and $26,250 for 10 bicycles added to the bike unit.
The budget also includes a $126,000 mass-casualty incident trailer, which will allow first responders to treat between 500 and 1,000 people during a large-scale emergency, while $363,225 was set aside for purchasing eight motor vehicle barricades, which are used for traffic control and security measures.
But there won’t be any people in the stadium for at least the first scheduled 49ers game Sept. 13.
Given that $8 million of those costs were covered by carryover from prior years, new purchases totaled $5.3 million — the highest capital expense forecast until 2024.
While most of the purchases were requested from the city’s Fire and Police Departments, the Stadium Authority requested 36% of the assets, according to budget documents. The money will come from Stadium Authority funds, not the city’s general fund.
“My question is, can you put a price on public safety?” Santa Clara Police Chief Pat Nikolai said. “We have to be there to answer the call, and even though people don’t want us to, we will still do it because that’s our job.”
Other sizable budgeted purchases include a women’s locker room for female athletes and performers, which costs $390,600. Furniture in reserved club areas and special event spaces may also be replaced for $1.68 million, in order to “meet client expectations.”
Building construction and maintenance items included $682,500 to replace Levi’s naming rights signage and $300,000 for plumbing replacements.
Levi’s Stadium won’t reopen to the public until California reaches Phase 4 in the state’s plan for reopening during the pandemic, which allows concerts, conventions and sports arenas — the highest risk activities — to resume. For now it’s unknown if any attendees will fill the 70,000 seats available during home games, and experts have said to not hold your breath.
Still, the Santa Clara Police Department “continues to enhance its public safety plan for Levi’s Stadium to provide for multiple contingency plans for the upcoming season, all of which have attendee and staff safety as the primary emphasis,” city officials wrote in an announcement to residents.
Nikolai said his officers will still have a presence at fan-less games, especially if people try to tailgate or get closer to the action.
While the millions in upfront equipments costs look steep, he said the upgrades allow stadium security to stay prepared and save money when life returns to normal after the pandemic, despite a push across the country to defund police.
Councilmember and Stadium Authority Board Member Raj Chahal, who has emerged as a fiscal conservative during his time on the City Council, said he doesn’t mind investing in public safety now, especially if vaccine options are available later this year.
“Given the environment we are right now, the situation changes every day, every week, every month,” Chahal said. “I think it’s better to be in a position where we have the stuff that we need for public safety, because it takes some time to get all this equipment.”
Despite the city facing tens of millions in projected deficits, Chahal said there are a host of security protocols that need to be followed.
“I’m not a safety public safety expert, so I’m depending on their judgment to say we need these things to support to the stadium at this type of magnitude,” Chahal said. “Public safety’s always paramount to me and the residents. A lot of the items make sense to put in place, but there are some which I would love to be prioritized.”
One of those priorities is a cloud-based management system for the finances of non-NFL events, in the hopes of increasing visibility into the 49ers’ transactions and invoice history – an issue which often leads to squabbles between the Stadium Authority and the football team.
The question of who is responsible for the $283,500 price tag for the management system is subject to court rulings, however, considering the issue of management of Levi’s Stadium will be decided by a judge after the city revoked privileges and the team sued.