There are at least three reasons why San Franciscans should be happy that the 49ers have solidified their stadium plans in Santa Clara with $200 million from the league:
If the stadium is built, it means the 49ers will not be moving out of the Bay Area. The Yorks have not threatened this, but they weren’t going to keep the team at Candlestick Park indefinitely, and Los Angeles has been without a pro team since both the Rams and Raiders left in 1995. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would prefer an expansion team there, but the NFL has no power to stop the move of an established team.
The new stadium will be more comfortable, with many more amenities than at Candlestick, originally built for baseball and remodeled for football so the 49ers could move there in 1971. Two-thirds of the seats will be in the bottom bowl, closer to the field, instead of the 50-50 split at Candlestick.
At least one Super Bowl, and probably more, will be held in the new stadium. The league always rewards those who build new stadiums and the Northern California weather — a big improvement on the northern cities that have sometimes hosted games (pity those going to an outdoor stadium in New Jersey in 2014) — will be enticing. San Francisco will benefit from a Santa Clara Super Bowl because a majority of those attending the game will be patronizing San Francisco hotels and restaurants. The Bay Area hasn’t hosted a Super Bowl since 1985, at Stanford, and the NFL didn’t want either a return to Stanford or one at Candlestick.
Realistically, the 49ers haven’t been a San Francisco team for decades, as their fan base has shifted south. When then-team president Lou Spadia moved the team from Kezar Stadium, after commissioning a study which showed that a conversion from bench seats to chairs would reduce the capacity to 37,000, he wanted to move to a mid-Peninsula site. But, he had promised the Morabito widows that he would keep the team in San Francisco, so he approved the Candlestick move.
The 49ers have since twice tried to stay at Candlestick Point. Carmen Policy put together a comprehensive plan in 1997 which called for a new stadium as part of an overall development, which would include entertainment featuring a multiplex theater and a retail operation which would span the range from budget items to the Neiman Marcus level. But that plan went south when Policy got a piece of the Cleveland Browns and moved back to the Midwest.
Niners co-chairman John York commissioned studies on a new stadium in the area which concluded that the best spot would be right where the current stadium stands. But before he could even begin planning his way around the obstacles — chiefly, where would the team play if the current stadium were destroyed and a new one built — he couldn’t get former Mayor Gavin Newsom to answer his phone calls. Newsom knew The City couldn’t afford any financial involvement, but he didn’t want to go public with that.
So, the 49ers turned their eyes south. And for those San Franciscans mourning that decision, I have this advice: Get real.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.