The NFL gave Jed York and the 49ers $200 million in support Thursday for their new stadium in Santa Clara.
York spoke on a conference call this afternoon, and this is what he said.
Q: How much of a shot in the arm is this 200 million dollar amount that was approved today?
YORK: This is something that the owners worked on – to put together the G4 facility. There was a lot of work that went into it. We’re obviously very thankful for the hard work and support. This is big step for the 49ers, and I think it’s a big step for stadium development in California. We haven’t had a (new) football stadium in California for decades. This is going to be a big thing for everybody.
Q: Some season ticket holders are having some reservations over the ticket prices for the new stadium. Do you think that you’re going to be able to sell enough tickets to pay back the full price?
YORK: I think you kind of hit on two things there. The first thing I’ll say is we want to make sure there is an option for all our fans. We only have 9,000 of our seats that are currently priced right now. We are going through the process of allocating seats to folks who are at Candlestick now. The legends and the stadium authority in Santa Clara have put together a process to allow those folks to come down and have their seat or a similar seat in the new stadium. For folks that don’t want those seats, if it’s out of their price range we’re allowing our longtime season ticket holders the opportunity to put down a completely refundable deposit so they can have first access for other seats as they open up in the stadium. We believe that the building’s going to be priced very fairly for our fans, and there’s going to be a lot of great amenities that make this building the greatest outdoor entertainment experience in the world. Obviously, if we weren’t comfortable with that from a financial standpoint, we wouldn’t move forward.
Q: You said it’s priced fairly, but season ticket holders are asked from $20,000 to $80,000 for the right for the seats with the stadium builder’s license. Do the 49ers think that’s reasonable?
YORK: You should probably understand the facts before you say something like that. Those are 9,000 seats out of a 67,000 seat stadium. Over 55,000 seats have not been priced yet. There’s definitely going to be affordable seats for everybody in the building.
Q: Do you have the naming rights deal yet?
YORK: No. We are working with potential naming-rights partners now, obviously with the full support from the NFL. That will make it much more likely that we will get it done.
Q: What are the terms of the loan with the NFL? And does it change the overall math on the borrowing for the project? Does it make it easier on the front end? How does it change anything if it all?
YORK: It’s not a loan. It’s NFL support. There are different pieces to it. It’s fairly complicated to get into, but it obviously is something that makes financing the stadium a reality, and it’s much easier to do when you have the NFL support than when you don’t have NFL support.
Q: Is it more accurate to say they’re kicking in $200 million towards the stadium as opposed to loaning?
YORK: It’s support. Some of it is a loan from the NFL’s balance sheet and the rest is support from the NFL owners. There’s a combination to it and it’s fairly intricate. It’s a lot more complicated than what you’re making it sound.
Q: Are there any strings attached as far as joint use with the Raiders?
YORK: There are no string attached, but obviously the term sheet that we have with the city of Santa Clara allowed for this to be a two-team building. That has not changed. We have not had any meaningful conversations with any team about that, but we have had some high-level conversations with the Raiders just to allow them to understand what this project looks like and understand what the stadium’s going to look and feel like in Santa Clara.
Q: Were those conversations with the Raiders recent?
YORK: We’ve had conversations with them. We keep each other abreast of our stadium situation, so it’s been ongoing for the past five or six years. But there hasn’t been anything meaningful as far as a partnership or some type of joint venture.
Q: Have you met with Mark Davis in recent months?
YORK: We worked out together today at the J.W. Marriot before the meeting, had lunch together – we’re staying at the same hotel in Indy. It was very casual conversation, just lamenting the fact that we aren’t playing in the game more than anything else.
Q: Some of the citizen groups that are against the deal say that the 49ers haven’t put any money on the line yet – that it’s 100 percent financed. Can you comment on that?
YORK: Yeah, it’s not true.
Q: How much cash have the 49ers put on the table so far for this?
YORK: The stadium is going to cost $1.02 billion. We’ve had the financing in place. We’ve spent money on predevelopment leading up to this project. We’ve spent money and we are the ones who ultimately on are on the hook for the risk of the stadium, and that’s the most important piece.
Q: When will you have the seat pricing done, and what with the builder’s license fees be based on?
YORK: We want to make sure that we have the opportunity to meet face to face with every single season ticket holder at Candlestick. I think that’s very important. We owe them that opportunity to sit down so they can understand all their options. The way we’re doing it is we’re allocating seats that are the same or similar to the ones they had at Candlestick. It’s hard to do that because at Candlestick about 50 percent of the seats are in the upper bowl and 50 percent in the lower bowl, and at the new stadium two thirds of the seats are in the lower deck and one third in the upper deck. So, there’s not a one-to-one ratio. There are more seats that are lower and closer to the field in Santa Clara. As we get through the first piece of this allocation, we’re hopeful in the next several months we’ll be able to reach out to the season ticket holders, and you just keep moving forward. We’ve got over 20,000 season ticket holder accounts. That will take probably a year to meet with everybody face-to-face. As we get through folks we’ll continue to line up interviews with more and more folks. We’re hopeful in the next couple months we’ll be able to get to the general admission seats. That’s something that legends and the stadium authority are working on right now.
Q: How do you characterize the significance of the fact that the NFL kicked in $200 million as opposed to $150 million?
YORK: It’s a different program. The G3 program was exhausted. The G4 program is a different program. When you’re looking at the dollar amount, it’s the most support that the NFL has ever given to one single team. The Jets and Giants had $300 million in support for both teams in a shared building. This is an unprecedented day for the 49ers and it’s a big vote of confidence from the league. It shows how important is to get new stadiums built in California.
Q: Is San Francisco completely off the table now or is there still a ray of hope there?
YORK: This means that we are fully funded for Santa Clara and we are building a football stadium in Santa Clara.
Q: Are the people of Santa Clara completely protected from all these loans?
YORK: The 49ers are on the hook if the loans can’t be paid back.
Q: What’s the next biggest hurdle the Niners have to clear to start building?
YORK: Ground breaking hopefully will begin soon. We’re doing a lot of make-ready work right now. Now it’s the construction, it’s making sure we get shovels in the ground and start building.
Q: What does the make-ready work entail?
YORK: Getting the site level – if you’re been there you know it slopes down, there’s a little bit of a grade there. So, just making sure you have everything in a position where you can start construction.
Q: Are we still looking at 2014 for the move in, or 2015?
YORK: 2015 is definite and we are hopeful that if things go well we can have a ’14 opening. 2015 is a certainty, and like anything we’d like to exceed our own expectations and we’re going to work as hard as we can to make that happen.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
YORK: There are two things. No. 1 – a big thank you to the city of Santa Clara, the city council members, the citizens for being so supportive, a big thank you to Mayor Lee and his staff that understands that even if we aren’t playing in San Francisco, we will always be the San Francisco 49ers and we will find great, creative ways to work together to make sure that we are part of the fabric of the city of San Francisco, and understand that this is a great day for the entire Bay Area.