After the fans went home and the lights at RFK Stadium clicked off, accountants huddled in their offices to crunch numbers and ponder the real meaning of the Jackson Victory Tour: money, profit, the bottom line.
District officials say the much ballyhooed Victory Tour, which played here Sept. 21 and 22, added thousands of dollars to local businesses' accounts. They also say the city government probably will show a modest profit.
According to Joseph Yeldell, director of the D.C. Office of Emergency Preparedness, the only cost to the city was for two fire department ambulance crews standing by at the stadium. Fire department spokesman Ray Alfred put that cost at about $2,000.
Two engine companies and hundreds of D.C. police officers were also stationed outside, with two helicopters circling overhead, but at no cost to taxpayers because they were on regular duty anyway, Yeldell said. Many of the officers were told to switch their days off so they would not have to be paid overtime, he said.
Jim Dalrymple, general manager of Starplex, part of the D.C. Armory Board that runs RFK Stadium, said it took in about $110,000. After deducting for such expenses as 35 U.S. Park Police officers on patrol outside the stadium ($16,000) the city expects to clear about $75,000 from rental of the stadium, parking and food concessions.
"That's not a big profit," Dalrymple said. "Certainly we have events that make more than $75,000. But the philosophy was that this is the nation's capital, and we wanted to be a part of the Victory Tour. That was more the motivating factor than the bottom line."
According to Dalrymple, Starplex's contract with Stadium Management Corp., promoters of the tour, covered everything from protection and restoration of the RFK playing surface to utilities. Dalrymple is holding about $255,000 of SMC funds in escrow to cover such things as the electric bill (about $3,000 per show) and repairs to broken seats (about $1,500).
The clean-up bill, Dalrymple says, was surprisingly low -- $9,000 for both shows. "People didn't eat the same things they do at the Redskins' games. The average age was low, there was no alcohol sold, it was a real family event."
Not included on Dalrymple's balance sheet is about $20,000 spent to enlarge the tunnel leading into the stadium so huge trucks carrying the Jacksons' equipment could drive inside.
That's not a chargeable expense, he said, "because we had that problem before" and were already planing to fix it.
Metro also did a healthy business, ferrying about 30,000 round-trip customers to the stadium on both nights, according to spokesman Al Long. He estimated the take at almost $60,000.
The people who apparently had the most profitable ride on the Jacksons' coattails were local restaurant and hotel owners. Doug Forseth, general manager for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Crystal City, said about 500 room-nights were billed for 120 members of the official Jackson entourage. According to the hotel, nightly rates range from $95 for a single to $600 for a two-bedroom suite, which means the tour spent a minimum of $47,500, not including room service, restaurant or bar tabs.
"It was a nice little piece of business for us," Forseth said. "If they want to come back, they're certainly welcome. They were good spenders."
The Regent hotel near Georgetown also put up about 50 persons associated with the tour, including Michael himself, for four to five days, according to a spokeswoman. At rates from $185 to $1,200 per night, the final tab came to at least $40,000.
One person not pleased with the way things have turned out, however, is George Coupe, owner of the Admiral Limousine Service, which rented seven vans, one stretch limo and two mobile homes to the promoters, SMC. Coupe has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria claiming that SMC owes him $23,000.
"The Jacksons don't have any involvement in this," according to Jack Hardin Young, Coupe's lawyer. "Stadium Management Corporation is just following Michael Jackson's song -- they tried to 'Beat It.'"
Chuck Sullivan, chairman of SMC, denies the charge, saying he is a victim of the tour's success. The way Sullivan tells it, Admiral agreed to one price and then billed him at a higher one.
"We've encountered this all along the way," Sullivan says. "Merchants in the host cities try to double and triple their rates because they feel it's an opportunity to make their whole business plan for a year in one weekend."
As a matter of fact, Sullivan says, he isn't too thrilled about his profit margin for the Washington shows, calling them "a terrific aesthetic success, a mild financial success."
Sullivan figures to clear about $50,000 ("not very significant") for the two performances after he settles up with Starplex. However, he said, Washington is regarded as the high point of the tour, which is a little more than half over.
"Michael Jackson commented to me after the show, 'Chuck, these have been the best two shows we've had on the tour.' There was a very wonderful attitude in the audience."
Sullivan said the Washington shows cost about $1.2 million to produce, $200,000 more than the average. Both shows sold out, he said, with 800 tickets donated to underprivileged and handicapped children while 87,200 fans paid full fare -- $30 per ticket. Sullivan said he and the Jacksons collect $28 per ticket, and 75 percent of that goes to the Jacksons, the balance to SMC.
Add it all up, and the Jacksons' share was more than $1,830,000. They then have to deduct the costs for the sound equipment, special stage, fireworks, private security, lasers, band equipment and a behind-the-scenes staff of over 200.
So what's their profit?
Those who know aren't saying.