The 49ers won’t move to Los Angeles, but their fans must resign themselves to the same crummy stadium for years to come. That’s the realistic conclusion after the meaningless visits of NFL executives this week to two potential sites for a new stadium in Santa Clara and at Hunters Point.
The 49ers have retrogressed in the stadium business. Ten years ago, with Eddie DeBartolo and Carmen Policy in charge, they had a workable plan for building a new stadium. Then, DeBartolo was caught up in a Louisiana gambling scandal and had to sell his part of the team to his sister and Policy left to become a part owner of the Cleveland Browns.
Now, they have some pretty diagrams but no realistic plan for paying for a new stadium. If you don’t have the money, you have only a dream, not a plan.
The only good news for 49ers fans is that Los Angeles may be even further behind. NFL executives met in the fall with representatives of Los Angeles city and county to try to work out a remodeling plan for the LA Memorial Coliseum but couldn’t come to even a preliminary agreement.
The basic problem is that it’s virtually impossible to get public money for a sports facility in California. In a state with 15 major professional teams, the state couldn’t provide stadium money for one. Anyway, the state doesn’t have the money even to repair roads, let alone build stadiums.
Cities don’t have the money, either. After failing on three ballot measures, the Giants finally built a privately owned park, and that’s the only new professional park/stadium/arena built in the Bay Area since the twin facilities of the Coliseum and Arena opened in Oakland in the fall of 1966.
With their new plan, the 49ers have tried to get public money from Santa Clara but have met with understandable resistance.
Helping to pay for an NFL stadium is a bad financial deal for a city. Pro football games don’t bring significant money into a community because fans seldom eat at nearby restaurants or stay in hotels.
There is only one real plus for a community: Hosting a Super Bowl. As many as 90 percent of the people attending the game come from elsewhere, so they are staying in local hotels and eating at local restaurants, some of them for several days.
But where do you think visitors would stay if they were coming to a Super Bowl at a stadium in Santa Clara? San Francisco, of course. So, Santa Clara would get very little business but be stuck with the costs for extra police at the game.
The stadium will have to be privately built, but those close to the family are convinced Denise DeBartolo York will never agree to put up the kind of money that’s needed. John York has reportedly been trying to get money from private investors, but it’s hard to see investors putting up significant money without a provision that they could buy the club in the future, the type of clause Chris Cohan invoked to buy the Warriors. But York doesn’t want to give up that kind of control, and he won’t sell to either an individual such as Larry Ellison or a group that could build the stadium privately.
So, 49ers fans, settle in at Monster Park. You’re going to be there a while.
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