S.F. Government Runs Its Own Giants Ticket-Scalping Operation

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Matt Smith
We're all on the same team, after all...
Did you know the City and County of San Francisco of San Francisco runs a ticket-scalping operation, much of which is routed through the online reseller StubHub?

The enterprise is run out of the Port of San Francisco, which is landlord to the San Francisco Giants. The agency pays $50,000 each year for Giants season tickets, purportedly for the purpose of wining and dining "clients" of the port with prime stadium seats. The truth, however, is that many of the tickets go toward other purposes -- namely an opportunity by port officials to offer themselves, their friends, and favored nonprofit organizations cut-rate or free tickets. The rest are scalped.

Port spokeswoman Renee Dunn Martin said the port is loath to give up season tickets first purchased when the Giants SOMA stadium opened in 2000. She said the tickets are useful for entertaining potential customers, such as cruise line executives. On top of the Giants ticket giveaway program, last year the Port spent an additional $80,000 sending employees around the world, throwing parties and buying meals, all in the name of business development.

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Port employees have been getting Giants tickets since Barry Bonds sort of looked like this...
But many of the tickets don't get used for wining nor dining. Surplus tickets are sold at season-ticket face value to employees -- which is less than the price they would have paid at the gate. Those not sold to employees are given to charity, sold to family and friends of employees, or scalped.

As of press time, the port had conducted 38 transactions for 2010 tickets over StubHub, with sales of tickets for games extending until Oct. 3.

According to the most recent budget figures, all but $6 million of the port's $64 million budget came from parking fees, leases, and rents from government property, with much of the rest coming from sources such as cargo and fishing fees. The one category that the port often cites as subject to improvements via wining and dining is the cruise ship business, which last year contributed $1.5 million to the port's bottom line.

Given the vast majority of port business still consists of collecting rent from 1930s-era type tenants, we're not sure how well the wining-and-dining has worked.

Whether or not Princess Cruise executives' hearts and wallets are opened by being treated to a Giants game, the potential exists for port employees to fancy themselves somehow on the Giants team -- given that their employer makes sure they have ample access to discount Giants tickets for themselves and others.

Ethics watchdog Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, praises the port for paying for its Giants tickets, rather than taking them as freebies.

"I guess I'm not outraged by this," he said. "I'm outraged I'm not there to go to the games. I'm a Giants fan."

Notwithstanding, this has the potential to create sticky situations, particularly in light of the waterfront development deal the port inked earlier this year with the Giants' business arm. Though various developers vied for rights to develop 16 acres of port land adjacent to AT&T Park, the city agency cut a deal that gives the Giants six years to obtain necessary approvals for a commercial and residential development -- and is structured specifically not to require the Giants to invest much money up front.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

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