City leaders' cost concerns over NCAA football tournament at Levi's Stadium

The City of Santa Clara is at odds with the 49ers over next year's college football championship game at Levi’s Stadium. The big game is nine months away but already city officials are raising concerns over how much it's going to cost. On Tuesday night, the 49ers gave them a guarantee.

It’s considered one of the premier college sporting events. The College Football Playoff National Championship is set to kick off at Levi’s Stadium in January with an estimated 70,000 fans.

“I think this it's going to showcase Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara and the South Bay,” said 49ers Vice President of Stadium Operations Jim Mercurio. “We’re tickled pink to have them.”

Yet, not everyone is thrilled. At Santa Clara City Hall Tuesday night, questions were raised over how much the game will cost and who's going to pick up the tab.

“We normally don't host events that walk in the door with a $12-$14 million loss,” said Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “We can't absorb those costs in the city.”

The 49ers estimate it will cost $12 million. The team said that’s how much it cost the city of Atlanta to host last year's championship game. Expenses include public safety, planning, traffic and code enforcement. The 49ers are adamant they'll cover the costs. 

“There is no risk to Santa Clara whatsoever,” said Mercurio. “There’s no risk to the general fund, no risk to Santa Clara whatsoever. The 49ers will take care of those costs.”

However, some city council members still aren't convinced, concerned some costs could come out of the general fund, ultimately taxpayer dollars. The 49ers said the City of Santa Clara may have to front some of the public safety costs since it deals with city employees.

“There have been instances in the past where things have not been followed through on,” said Santa Clara Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe. “We need to see it in writing. As of right now, I haven't seen any agreements. We need to see those agreements to make sure our city is protected.”

The 49ers and the City of Santa Clara have had a contentious relationship over stadium operating costs and concert curfews.

The 49ers estimate the championship game could bring in $200 million of economic impact to the South Bay.  They said, 7,500 hotel rooms have already been booked. One Santa Clara city council member believes the city is set to gain, not lose.

“I don't believe that there's a $12 million loss that the city is going to be liable for,” said Santa Clara City Council Member Dominic Caserta. “I think this is a win-win situation.”

Another concern brought up was traffic given it's a Monday night game. City staff have been tasked to come up with options for a separate fund for the championship game, so the city's general fund is protected. It will be ironed out at a meeting next month.