If you’re one of those people jumping on the San Francisco 49ers bandwagon this season, then you probably haven’t noticed that with each glorious victory, the truck bed is moving ever closer to Santa Clara.
And if you’ve been as hard on the family that owns the team as I have, it’s time to give them credit for being genuinely smart about it. The only thing the York family would like to do faster than print playoff tickets is to sell you a personal seat license for their new stadium, which they plan to do en masse starting next year.
Still, the fanatical side of fandom may cloud many things, but reality is not one of them. Even a Super Bowl victory won’t change the fact that in this economy investors aren’t just lining up to help the Yorks with their $1 billion dream to build a new home for the 49ers in a city that has fewer residents than the 70,000 or so Sunday visitors they hope will make the trip to Santa Clara beginning in 2015.
In fact, the family is so giddy about the team’s surprising success this year that the company line was put out that maybe they’ll open their planned digs a year earlier. And the proper response to that would require me to paraphrase a line from the late, great Raiders owner Al Davis: Just wish, baby.
Davis may no longer be with us, but his presence surely is in this matter, because for those too joyous with the local teams’ turnaround this year, it’s worth remembering that the leaders of the National Football League would dearly love for the 49ers and Raiders to share a new stadium rather than consider building two of them.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but the only thing the owners of the San Francisco and Oakland teams have shared since their existence is mutual animosity.
It’s worth noting that as anxious as the 49ers are to leave the decrepit wind tunnel we call Candlestick Park, the Raiders are nearly as desperate to find a new home for their ink-baring fans.
Although the 49ers have barely addressed it in their desperation to push the Santa Clara stadium option, the Raiders’ situation will play a part in the ultimate decision, which will still include San Francisco’s desire to build the team’s new home in Hunter’s Point.
But don’t listen to me. Let’s hear from someone who has actually run football teams and stadium plans, former 49ers President Carmen Policy.
“For the 49ers to present their stadium project as more of a reality sooner than later, I think is very smart on their part,” Policy told me recently. “The organization appears to be on the right track in terms of the product — that is, the football team. But investors are pretty savvy and they’re not looking at the building of a new stadium like a football fan. And the bottom line is that I cannot imagine the NFL wanting to support two separate stadiums in the Bay Area.”
Policy said he believes that the 49ers’ recent announcement that they hope to accelerate the stadium proposal and open in 2014 is “not doable,” and that 2015 will still be difficult even if all the planets and stars aligned.
And as sharp as the team might be in trying to feed off of this incredible season — Thursday’s humbling loss put aside — the plans are not going to take off without the NFL’s input on the future of the league’s sixth-biggest market.
Policy said the big question is who will emerge as the operator of the Raiders in Davis’ absence and whether that could end the frigid relations that have kept the teams apart. As the new stadium for the New York Jets and Giants proved, it is possible for two separate, competing organizations to come together — at the NFL’s insistence.
“I see the league kind of operating along a line that things don’t move too fast,” Policy said. “The situation is going to take a little time to develop.’’
The 49ers are not moving based on that idea and they shouldn’t. They’re winning — even old, disgruntled fans are back.
But things change. Look at the previous 10 years.