The relocation of the Manchester United vs. San Jose Earthquakes soccer match relatively late in the game has hurt any chances of UC Berkeley scoring financially by hosting the event at California Memorial Stadium.
Although the campus was hoping to take in some revenue that would help cover the $321 million in Memorial Stadium’s rebuilding and retrofitting costs, the campus plans on recovering all money spent on organizing and promoting the match thus far, according to campus administration and finance spokesperson Carole Love.
“(These) things, while not ideal, happen frequently in the events business,” Love said in an email. “We are disappointed, but it isn’t uncommon.”
The match, scheduled for July 21, has been moved to Avaya Stadium in San Jose to better accommodate “Manchester United’s requirements for travel and logistical reasons,” according to a press release from Relevent Sports, the company organizing the event. San Jose Mercury News, however, has reported speculations that slow ticket sales may have prompted the venue change, as officials have declined to provide information about Memorial Stadium’s sales for the event.
The match was the only one in the Bay Area to have not sold out yet as part of the International Champions Cup North America. Another Manchester United match against FC Barcelona — set to take place July 25 in Santa Clara, California — sold out shortly after tickets were released. The Earthquakes’ match against Club America, scheduled for July 14 at Avaya Stadium, is also sold out.
But Love, referencing last year’s match between Real Madrid C.F. and F.C. Internazionale Milano held at Memorial Stadium, noted that “a significant portion of ticket sales occur closer to the game, with a large number of walk-up sales (which is typical for soccer).”
As for all the fans who had purchased tickets for the Berkeley match, they were given full refunds and first priority for the San Jose match tickets. Likely because of Avaya Stadium’s limited capacity of 18,000 — compared with Memorial Stadium’s about 63,000 — starting ticket prices for the game have increased from $45 to $55.
According to a 2014 Memorial Stadium finance report released by UC Berkeley’s Administration and Finance, the campus is on track to pay back costs incurred by renovating the formerly seismically unsafe stadium, which was mandated by the UC Board of Regents in 2008.
“It is critically important to note that this one event was a small part of a much larger, comprehensive approach (to financing Memorial Stadium),” Love said. The campus’s funding approach includes revenue sources such as the rental of unused stadium space; premium seat sales; and the Kabam partnership, expected to bring in about $18 million over 15 years.
Future partnership between UC Berkeley and Relevent Sports remains uncertain but seems likely, given the potential of such high-profile matches to bring in significant revenue. Relevent Sports spokesperson Ben Spencer expressed confidence in the company’s relationship with the campus despite the relocation, and Love said the campus would evaluate future collaborations on a case-by-case basis.
Senior staff writer Hooman Yazdanian contributed to this report.