SANTA CLARA -- Riding high off a Super Bowl run, the San Francisco 49ers have sold three-fourths of the seats at the new Silicon Valley stadium as the team prepares to transfer a huge cash infusion to the public agency building the stadium.
Undeterred by huge price increases over Candlestick Park tickets, fans and corporations have bought $403 million worth of seats, -- equal to the cost spent to build the stadium so far -- and the Niners are well ahead of schedule to sell out before the 2014 opening, the team said Friday.
In fact, the most expensive seats in the house are already sold out -- in the suite tower, where luxury boxes cost up to $500,000, and the $80,000 club seats at midfield. Only the cheaper seats behind the end zones and in the corners are left. When adding suite sales, the total new revenue from the $1.2 billion stadium is believed to be more than $800 million.
"I think we've been received very well by our fan base," said 49ers CEO Jed York.
The Niners' sales team Friday transferred the seat sales contracts to the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, the public agency that is relying on the revenue to pay back the $850 million loan it took out to begin construction last April. The City Council, acting as the Stadium Authority, is set to approve the contracts Tuesday night, making them legally binding.
Although most fans are financing the seats over time instead of paying cash, the Stadium Authority will immediately receive $100 million worth of payments fans have already made.
Unlike at Candlestick Park, where fans just buy tickets to get in, the new stadium requires fans to purchase their seats ahead of time and then pay for annual season tickets on top of that cost. Seats in the new stadium range from $2,000 to $80,000 in one-time costs and are good for life, while season tickets are about double the cost of Candlestick: $850 to $3,750 per season.
Al Guido, of Legends, the firm that is leading the sales effort for the Niners and the Stadium Authority, said his sales team had sold out all 102 suites in the new three-story tower of luxury boxes, though about two thirds of the remaining 60-or-so suites that ring the stadium are still available. The team keeps the revenue from the luxury boxes, which cost $150,000 to $500,000 and fit more than a dozen people. With the suite tower sold out, the luxury box revenue is believed to be in the range of $400 million, though the 49ers would not reveal the exact total.
Overall, three out of every five sections have sold out since the pricey club seats went on sale a year ago and the remaining seats began selling in June, Guido said. About 70 percent of existing season ticket holders have bought seats.
About 14,000 clients -- mostly fans, with some companies -- have bought 46,100 seats in the 68,500-seat stadium. About 1,000 seats will be left unsold for single-game sales.
Comparing the stadium sales effort to other teams is tricky since the sales process is typically private in the NFL, and the most recent two stadiums, Cowboys Stadium and the Giants' and Jets' MetLife Stadium, did not begin selling seats until 18 months before opening.
Stadium opponents doubted the team could sell enough seats to pay back the loan required to build the stadium. But sales began swiftly, topping $300 million during the first nine months as the team celebrated its run to the NFC Championship game. Then in the past few months, another $100 million in sales poured in as the Niners reached Super Bowl XLVII.
"This was a really exciting season, and they're a young team," said Morgan Hill resident Lucia Langone-Martin, 41, who works at a bank down the block from the new stadium and bought two seats with her husband last month. "I think there's going to be a lot happening for them, and to be able to see that upfront is definitely a driver" to buy.
Ryan Russell, a dispatcher for the San Jose Fire Department, said she was willing to work overtime and split the cost of a pair of $6,000 seats with her boyfriend and parents because she didn't want to wait and risk missing out if her favorite team wins the Super Bowl.
"I would be kicking myself," said Russell, 27. "We knew it was going to be a lot of money. (But) we love the 49ers, and what better way to support our team?"
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.
$403 million: Total seat sales
46,100: Seats sold (75 percent of 61,500 seats on sale)
87: Sections sold out (61 percent of 142 total sections)
80 percent: Share of 165 suites that have been sold