Events at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara have generated $2 billion in total economic impact for the region in the last decade, according to a report commissioned by the San Francisco 49ers.
The report was prepared by Daniel Rascher, a professor of sports economics at University of San Francisco and head of consulting firm SportsEconomics. It covers the period from July 2014 through July 2023. The 49ers released the report today in recognition of the team’s 10th season at the stadium.
“Levi’s Stadium is an integral part of the Santa Clara community—as an employer, a tax and revenue driver for the city, and as a dynamic cultural attraction,” Santa Clara Councilmember Karen Hardy said in a statement. “We have worked hard to ensure that Santa Clarans are benefiting from the stadium, and this report is an encouraging sign that for the past decade we’ve been able to accomplish that.”
The significant impact is attributed to nearly 1,000 special or corporate events, as well as 155 “major events,” like Super Bowl 50, high-profile 49ers games, the College Football Playoff National Championship and international soccer matches. The stadium has also hosted concerts with marquee names like Elton John, Taylor Swift, Coldplay and The Weeknd.
More recent big acts not captured in the report include Beyonce and Ed Sheeran.
The equivalent of nearly 12,000 full-time jobs have been created in the last 10 years, including full-time roles and combined part-time gigs, the report said. Local employees have earned nearly $550 million since Levi’s Stadium opened in July 2014.
“Nearly $350 million went to the city of Santa Clara and the Santa Clara Stadium Authority in the form of sales and hotel taxes, ticket surcharges, city parking fees, and rent,” the report said. An additional $120 million went to San Jose and Santa Clara County governments.
Visitors to stadium events, as well as visiting organizations, sponsors, vendors and the 49ers, provided more than $370 million in economic impact within the greater Bay Area region, over the decade covered by the report.
“Levi’s Stadium was built to be an economic asset for Santa Clara and this report shows that in less than 10 years, we are exceeding expectations and have had a profoundly positive effect on the city,” 49ers President Al Guido said. “We’ve worked hard to deliver for the community, and it’s gratifying to see that our partnership with the city is translating to billions of dollars for our neighbors.”
The $2 billion total economic impact figure accounts for both direct and indirect spending. Direct spending is money spent by visitors on things like “tickets, concessions, merchandise and parking, as well as before and after the events at local hotel, restaurant, entertainment, retail and other establishments,” the report said.
Direct spending is also generated by the stadium’s operation, through its purchases locally to run events, as well as through taxes paid to local governments. Direct local spending can also include advertising and sponsorships.
The report said events at Levi’s Stadium generated about $1.46 billion in direct economic impact over the last decade.
Indirect spending is calculated by taking into account the “ripple” effect of the direct spending dollars, such as when a restaurant uses money from a visitor to pay an employee or purchase food from a supplier.
The 49ers noted in a statement that fiscal year 2022-23, ending in March, was “one of the most successful” in Levi’s Stadium history, generating $251 million in economic impact. About $53 million in taxes and fees went to local governments including Santa Clara.
Stadium benefit critics
Not everyone in Santa Clara is sold on the overall benefits. A recent city report noted the stadium produced $8.8 million in profit from non-NFL events that fiscal year, half of which goes to the stadium authority for operations, with the remainder typically intended for the city’s general fund to benefit residents.
But the city— embroiled in ongoing legal disputes with the 49ers about who should pay for higher than anticipated public safety costs for games—decided to put its profits for the year into a “legal contingency reserve” fund, Finance Director Kenn Lee said at a Santa Clara City Council meeting last month.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said at the meeting that based on what was promised to the city when the stadium was being built, Santa Clara is getting “the crumbs,” while the stadium is massively successful with “fabulous” events supported by the city.
“We were supposed to get a huge benefit from the stadium,” Gillmor said. “They’re using our police force, our fire department, our city staff, we’re all working so hard to get zero non-NFL revenue? That’s unacceptable.”
The report from Rascher is based on primary research like surveys and direct data gathering during the events to estimate spending, as well as the collating of other already available data.
Among other limitations, the report does not account for any costs to residents from possible negative impacts of the stadium and its events, such as “congestion, opportunity costs of having used the land in alternative ways, and direct out-of-pocket costs” to support events.
Team officials said Monday they’re more than 15 years ahead of schedule in paying the stadium’s construction costs, saving an estimated $100 million in interest fees.