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Stadium Financials: Where Are We On Paying For New Memorial Stadium

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We need to take a closer look at where Cal Athletics is vis a vis paying for new Memorial Stadium

Oregon v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

SURPRISE! I’M ALIVE! AND I HAVE THOUGHTS ON THE STADIUM FINANCING! THOSE THOUGHTS FOLLOW!

Every year Cal releases its update regarding stadium funding. The link is here. You can usually tell when there is a problem with these stadium funding reports, because Cal does not go out of its way to trumpet the information. This is where we are now in regards to the stadium financing situation.

If you scroll down in the above link to FY14, you get a link to this story, entitled:

Facilities Financing Revenue Increases 26.4% in FY14

It is actually 404’d now, so not sure what happened there. So, when news was good, Cal put out a news release. Do we have a news release for FY16? Similar to FY15, no.

The sad reality is that FY14 was a highpoint in which the overall revenue was approx 29 mil. FY15, we saw it go down to approx 23 mil. Now, for FY16, we are looking at approx 14 mil. So, in 2 years, Cal’s overall revenue is down 15 mil. That is not good.

INVESTMENT INCOME

However, what is weird about this is that it is almost exclusively in the investment section. In FY14, Cal’s investments made over 10 mil. In FY16, Cal lost approx 2 mil in its investments. What is weird about this is that the market has gone up over time here. It is an imprecise science, but let’s just take the Dow Jones in general. On July 1, 2014 (the first day of FY15), it was at $16,956. On July 1, 2015 (the first day of FY16), it was at $17,757.91. On June 30, 2016 (the last day of FY16), it was at $17,929.99.

So, how did Cal’s investment income drop $12,000 over 2 years? If they did nothing, their money would have gone up slightly? They may have not made 10 mil in those two years, but they would have not lost 2 mil.

Even if they had just moved all their money into the SPDR DIA, which tracks the Dow Jones and done nothing else, they would have gone from 168.17 on 6.27.14 to 179.31 by 7.1.16 (and been at 209.77 as of 5.6.17).

This is especially perplexing considering that on June 24, 2014, Sandy Barbour quit (effective July 15, 2014).

The person who took her place (and still remains as Athletic Director) is Michael Williams. Let’s take a look at his background from the press release promoting his appointment as permanent AD:

Williams began his professional career at Data Resources, Inc., before becoming a debt trader and corporate finance officer for Bank of America. He joined Barclays Global Investors in 1993 and retired from the company in 2009 as vice chair of Capital Markets. Other roles at BGI included head of the Global Index and Markets Group, where he was directly responsible for over $1.1 trillion in assets, head of Global Securities Lending and CEO, President and Trustee of BGI's mutual funds.

He was in finance! He retired from the company in his 50s (presumably because he made so much fucking money he could retire in his 50s). He was apparently directly responsible for over $1,100,000,000,000 worth of money! I think I got the zeros right there. I can barely type out trillions correctly, but this guy was managing trillions.

So, if the point of bringing a finance whiz into the game was to help Cal’s flagging financials, why did Cal proceed to drop 12 mil in income investment in 2 years in a bull market?!?!?!??!?

Look, anybody can smile and wave at games! Anybody can poorly shoot a T-shirt out of a T-Shirt cannon, ensuring the T-Shirt flaccidly falls to the ground! Michael Williams was presumably brought in to goose the financials and, so far, the financials remain de-goosed. It is like they had to actively work to lose money to lose this investment income.

BASIC METRICS

This whole situation is even weirder if you strip away the investment side and just look at the basic athletics metrics. By this, I mean the things relating to sale of tickets, media revenue, and rental of properties.

In FY14, this amount was approximately 19 mil. In FY15, this amount was also approximately 19 mil. In FY16 now, this amount is approx $17.5 mil. So, the fundamentals themselves have decreased, in addition to the investment concerns raised above.

Where does this decrease come from?

TICKET PAYMENTS

Firstly, it stems from a decrease in overall ticket payments since FY14. There are two types of tickets here. One ticket type is for ESP seats, years long season ticket purchases in the most premium seats. The other type is individual game premium tickets, which are like ESP seats, but sliced and diced per game.

In FY14, there were 1,941 overall tickets sold. This includes the ESP seats and individual game premium tickets. However, by FY16, that number is 1,814. It is actually a slight increase over FY15, which was 1,808. The slight increase may be due to the fact that FY16 includes the 2015 season in which Cal had a #1 draft pick and was reasonably good. FY17 will include the 2016 football season in which Cal was mediocre, so ticket sales may decrease from that. However, they fired the coach partially to boost sales, so we will have to see what FY17 numbers look like.

So, Cal ticket revenues for both ESP and premium ticket sales went down approx $1,500,000 from FY14 to FY16. That is one major concern.

MEDIA INCOME

One of the reasons why Cal’s non-investment income from FY14 to FY15 was roughly the same is because of an infusion of media cash. According to Cal Athletics, they now get $2,500,000 in media revenue. That appears in FY16 and FY15, but not FY14. So, the real revenue from FY15 is approx 2.5 mil lower than FY14 revenue. Either way, other schools use this cash to pay better coaches or whatnot, but we are using it to pay off our facilities. So, that 2.5 mil is a constant going forward.

DONATIONS/CORPORATE

One of the main reasons why the numbers are down are due to donations/corporate partnership. FY14 has 7.7 mil worth of donations/corporate partnership. FY15 has 6.7 mil. FY16 has 5.0 mil. The definition of this section is:

This includes revenue related to the Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium partnership, as well as revenues collected from other gifts and donor recognition elements at both California Memorial Stadium and the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance.

So, it appears to be donations coupled with partnership relating to corporations (such as Kabam). Presumably, it goes down because fans became disillusioned with the Dykes era at Cal and donated less. It is not clear to me how much of the Kabam money is being reflected here. It would be consistent, I think, so the decrease is most likely due to the donation decrease.

RENTAL/LEASES

What is also weird in this is that rental revenue actually has increased since FY14. This comes from holding special events (like weddings at the stadium) and leasing space to other entities. In FY14, Cal made about $500,000 leasing and rental space. Then, in FY15, that doubled to 1.1 mil. Now, in FY16, it has gone back down to approx $900,000. The revenue went down $200,000, even though apparently, Cal had more rentals and leases than ever!

FY15 Number of Event Rentals Held (through Q4)

783

FY15 Total Square Footage Leased (through Q4)

8,006 sq. ft.4

FY 16 Number of Event Rentals Held (through Q4)

1054

FY 16 Total Square Footage Leased (through Q4)

15,965 sq. ft.5

This first number is defined as:

4 Number of Event Rentals Held represents the number of events held at California Memorial Stadium and the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance during the specified period that are scheduled to yield gross rental revenues to IA during the period or at a future date.

The second number is defined as:

5 Total Square Footage Leased represents the total square footage leased at California Memorial Stadium and the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance during the specified period that is scheduled to yield gross rental revenues to IA during the period or at a future date.

It is weird how they made less money despite seemingly being more successful.

CONCLUSION

The stadium fund dropped 6 mil from FY15 to FY16. Even in FY15 when their growth slowed, the fund increased from 63 mil to 66 mil. However, in FY16, the fund dropped to 60 mil. At 63 mil in FY14, Cal states that they are approx 8 mil ahead of their base case model. Base case model means that in 2053, they have nearly 400 mil in the fund with 75 mil owed in principal.

So, now, here we are 2 years later and we are down 6 mil in the fund. Cal has no comments now about where they are in relation to their base case model. They may be around base case now. Even if Cal ends up at base case, we are building a very positive future (in the 2050s at least). However, all of Cal’s momentum appears to have stalled here. It is partially due to perplexingly poor investments, but it is also partially due to mediocrity on the field. As the team goes, so shall go to the stadium finances.

What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments and Go Bears!