Santa Clara, 49ers embroiled in fresh stadium dispute

The City of Santa Clara has questioned the San Francisco 49ers’ ability to manage Levi’s Stadium after threatening to cease the NFL American football team’s right to issue contracts involving stadium operations and cut the franchise’s management fee.

In what is an escalating feud between the 49ers and Santa Clara, home to Levi’s Stadium, the city has queried the spending of $643,568 (£493,286/€575,959) on refinishing the venue’s floor. Regulations require the city to be informed of any work that could exceed $100,000 and to approve contracts of more than $250,000, however the city claims it only found out about the work when invoiced.

Levi’s Stadium is owned and managed by the Stadium Authority, a separate arm of the city, but the 49ers manage the venue’s day-to-day operations and events on behalf of the city, such as concerts and non-NFL sports events.

The city also claims the 49ers failed to follow state laws concerning wages for the flooring project, and may have paid workers less than they deserved. Mayor Lisa Gillmor said, according to the Mercury News newspaper: “I think what we have is a bigger issue. And the bigger issue is their management ability. We are just finding in terms of getting the details that they do not have the experience to manage the stadium.”

Gilmour added that while Santa Clara is not currently looking for a new stadium manager, the city is instead focused on ensuring the team complies with state wage laws. She said: “It’s our interest that the stadium be run professionally for the taxpayers of our community and we don’t feel that’s happening right now.”

However, the 49ers have fired back at this criticism. Team spokesman Rahul Chandhok said: “It is challenging to understand Mayor Gillmor’s finger-pointing when the documents used to procure services at the stadium were created and approved by her staff. While the mayor’s political strategy is transparent, it remains disappointing and tired. This is not her first threat, and I imagine not her last.”

In January, it was revealed that the 49ers are set to receive a $36m tax refund and see future payments slashed by half following a ruling on the status of Levi’s Stadium that Santa Clara County claimed will have “significant financial consequences” for the local region.

The team scored the win at the Santa Clara County Assessment Appeals Board. The ruling relates to the property tax the team has to pay on the $1.3bn Levi’s Stadium, which opened in July 2014.

Image: Visit Santa Clara