Former CEO says league wants team to stay in S.F.

San Francisco’s big-city energy, cachet and long history with the 49ers make it a better choice than Santa Clara for a new stadium, said former team president and CEO Carmen Policy — and he says NFL officials agree with him.

“If it had its druthers, the NFL would prefer to see the 49ers stay in San Francisco,” said Policy, speaking Wednesday at a Commonwealth Club panel discussion.

Policy said a new stadium must be built, because the stadium at Candlestick Park — the oldest NFL stadium — was in a state of “dangerous” disrepair.

But if a viable deal couldn’t be worked out to build a state-of-the-art stadium in San Francisco, then a new stadium in Santa Clara would not be “chopped liver,” Policy said.

Policy, who worked alongside former owner Eddie DeBartolo during four of the team’s five Super Bowl victories in the 1980s and ’90s, also speculated that “the 49ers would take a deal [in San Francisco] that’s not as good as Santa Clara’s as long as they could get it [a new stadium]” by 2012 — the goal that’s been presented to both cities.

Although no current 49ers representative participated in Wednesday’s panel discussion, which included Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan and Michael Cohen, a representative from Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office, a statement forwarded to the Commonwealth Club by team officials contradicted Policy’s assertions.

“Our goal is a new stadium that will deliver a world-class game day experience for our fans,” the statement read. “This includes quick access to and from the stadium, readily available public transportation and easy parking and tailgating opportunities for our fans. The site in Santa Clara already meets all these requirements.”

NFL officials, reached by The Examiner after the panel discussion, were noncommittal about their city of choice.

“We expect to have additional meetings with both San Francisco and Santa Clara city officials in the weeks ahead so that the 49ers season ticket holders have a state-of-the-art football facility soon, in the best venue possible,” said Joe Browne, executive vice president of communications for the NFL.

Santa Clara is currently working on a study to determine the feasibility of building a new $854 million stadium on city-owned land adjacent to the Great America amusement park.

The plan to relocate the team began in November, when the 49ers declared a proposed stadium project at Candlestick Point unworkable. San Francisco has since proposed the site of the former Hunters Point Shipyard for the stadium. Team officials have expressed interest in the proposal as a potential backup plan.

beslinger@examiner.com

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