Mayor Gavin Newsom said he would decide today whether or not to pull The City’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, in light of an announcement by the San Francisco 49ers that they plan to build a new stadium in Santa Clara.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is expected to make a decision within months about which city, if any, among the contenders — San Francisco, Chicago or Los Angeles — would represent the nation in a bid to host the prestigious sporting event 10 years from now.
Prior to the sports team’s announcement Wednesday, San Francisco’s bid had hinged on a plan for a new 49er stadium complex, since Olympic officials had already expressed concern about The City’s ability to secure a San Francisco venue large enough for the high-profile opening and closing ceremonies.
Newsom said he was caught off guard Wednesday night when 49ers owner John York called to say he was ready to walk away from years of negotiations and efforts to build the new stadium at Candlestick Point, in order to station the new state-of-the-art football venue adjacent to Santa Clara’s Great America amusement park.
The timing of the decision — which made TV news late Wednesday — was particularly bad, Newsom said, since San Francisco’s bid committee had to walk into scheduled meetings with Olympic officials in Southern California Thursday morning to discuss The City’s proposed plans.
“I would have gone down to talk to the USOC if I knew this [the 49ers decision to move] was coming,” Newsom said.
Now, Newsom said he is scheduled to talk today to U.S. Olympic chief Peter Ueberroth to determine if they immediately need a conclusive determination about The City’s plans for an Olympic stadium. Newsom said he is still hopeful that The City can convince York to reverse his decision.
San Francisco officials had been warned since this summer that the 49ers did not believe Candlestick Point was an ideal site for the stadium project, which would have also included a large commercial residential development to help offset the costs, 49er spokeswoman Lisa Lang said.
At the same time, however, the 49ers were also working with The City to design a new 68,000-seat football stadium, as well as drafting ideas on how the stadium could be reconfigured into an Olympic-size venue with temporary bleachers.
“We were trying to do what we could to helpthe Olympic bid, but we also made it clear on a regular basis that this was only a feasibility plan,” Lang said. “To hinge an entire Olympic bid on the stadium isn’t prudent.”
The 49ers also produced an alternative plan to reconfigure the existing Monster Park stadium for the Olympics, and that plan is being dusted off to see if it can be sold to U.S. Olympic officials.
“We’ll see if a reconstructed stadium is something they’ll be willing to indulge in,” Newsom said. “If they say, ‘absolutely not,’” then the decision is made.’”
An Olympic proposal from the Bay Area for the 2012 Summer Games was rejected, reportedly due to the fact that the centerpiece ceremonies were proposed for Stanford’s stadium, which was deemed too far away from San Francisco.
York, in a news conference Thursday morning, said the Candlestick Point project “will not accommodate the next-generation NFL stadium: a large mixed-use development project with easy access to and from the stadium, enough parking for our fans and an effective public transportation system.”
Newsom said The City had been aggressively working to address the concerns brought forth by the 49ers and said it was unfair that they cut off negotiations abruptly.
“It just seems to me remarkable that you’d close down this discussion with The City on the 5-yard line,” Newsom said. “We’re about to cross that finish line, and we’ve done all that work to get down the field, and they don’t want to cross that line.”
Although the 49ers are moving forward in their discussions with Santa Clara officials about relocating in their county, team officials would still be willing to discuss staying in San Francisco, Lang said.