During his bid last year for the mayor's office, Jim Kenney pledged to capitalize on a prime city asset - its sports arena luxury boxes. Selling those seats by event, Kenney estimated, would raise $1 million annually for the School District.
But six months into his administration, the numbers are underwhelming.
The city has sold seats for just three concerts - one by Bruce Springsteen and two by Justin Bieber - for $23,508, according to a report released Friday.
Kenney's office said the paltry sales are due to unexpected legal roadblocks, not a lack of effort. But while the city works through those challenges, Kenney is using the tickets largely as his predecessor did - giving the majority to children and other worthy causes, and a sizable chunk to city employees and their friends and family. That includes 16 concert tickets set aside for Kenney's son's girlfriend.
"It's been a learning process about this matter during the first six months of the administration," spokesman Mike Dunn said. "And the results you see here do not in any way represent what we are trying to achieve."
Usage of the city's luxury boxes at the Wells Fargo Center, Citizens Bank Park, and Lincoln Financial Field has been closely monitored since Mayor John F. Street drew fire for giving seats to the politically connected, including ward leaders, labor bosses, and family members. A 2005 review showed that of 1,358 tickets given out by the Street administration, just 72 went to community groups, charities, and police officers.
Mayor Michael Nutter committed to doing better and started a program to hand out tickets to schoolchildren, nonprofits, and charities. Between 2008 and 2013, he did so with 54 percent of his box seats.
That statistic comes from Kenney, who in 2013 challenged Nutter, in a public letter, to sell the seats and use the money for school supplies.
"Wouldn't it be better to supply 100 percent of schoolchildren rather than give 54 percent tickets to a baseball game?" Kenney said at the time.
Ironically, in his first six months in office Kenney gave exactly 54 percent of his tickets to children and the adults accompanying them from recreation centers, nonprofits, schools, and other groups.
That included sending fourth graders from the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School to see the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey circus, disabled adults served by the Salvation Army to a Phillies game, and members of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School basketball team to see Villanova and Georgetown Universities face off.
The 54 tickets sold by the city raised money for the nonprofit Fund for the School District of Philadelphia. The city said the funds went to purchase classroom instructional books to help children read at their grade level.
Dunn declined to comment further on the legal issues keeping the city from selling more of its seats, but said the Law Department is working to resolve them.
City employees and their family members benefited from the boxes, too. Twenty-eight percent of the tickets went to employees and 3 percent to City Council members or their staff, who are counted separately. Those breakdowns are similar to those seen under the Nutter administration.
Other highlights from the report:
Auburn (N.Y.) Mayor Tim Lattimore got 26 tickets during the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships, held in May at Lincoln Financial Field. Dunn said Lattimore is an acquaintance of Nutter's and received such a large number because there was low demand for the lacrosse games.
Kenney personally requested seats for five events, including a Flyers game against the Toronto Maple Leafs that he attended with the Canadian consul and the consul's guests, and a Phillies game he attended with the state champion Neumann-Goretti girls' basketball team. He also claimed four tickets when Rihanna played at the Wells Fargo Center in April. Dunn said those tickets were for daughter Nora.
Kenney requested 16 tickets for, but did not attend, Pearl Jam's April concert at the Wells Fargo Center. Those tickets went to Kyrsten Edwards, girlfriend of Kenney's son Brendan.
The Police Department used 113 tickets. The mayor's office, which is made up of 11 units, used the most - 206. Dunn said 29 were for unpaid interns.
Asked if the mayor was comfortable with the number of tickets being used by his office, Dunn said the city doesn't "see this as an issue moving forward," as it soon will be "completely revising" how it hands out tickets.