49ers should look near SFO

In their quest for a new stadium, the 49ers should shift their focus from Candlestick Point to an area owned by the city of San Francisco, across Highway 101 from San Francisco International Airport.

This site was first considered for a baseball stadium by two San Francisco mayors, Dianne Feinstein and Art Agnos. The Giants finally built in China Basin, a much better site for them because baseball parks need to be in the city, so surrounding restaurants and businesses can benefit from the foot traffic. Football stadiums work fine in suburban areas because it’s a once-a-week sport and fans bring their own food to games.

The site has its problems. It is home to the red garter snake, an endangered species, so a new habitat would have to be found for the snake. It is within the “sphere of influence” of San Bruno and parts of it are in Millbrae, so both cities would need to agree to the building of a stadium.

But its advantages far outweigh the problems. Access would be easy because it’s adjacent to two highways, the 101and Interstate 380, and only a short distance from Interstate 280. The BART extension is nearby, as is a Caltrain stop. It would also be closer to the bulk of the 49ers’ fan base on the Peninsula. Because of the much easier access, it would probably be a quicker ride for those coming from north of Candlestick.

In contrast, Candlestick is a terrible site. The current stadium is on the best part of that site. Current plans are to build a new one in what is now the parking lot, which would be very expensive because piers would have to be sunk into the water below to support the stadium. During construction, fans would have to park at Hunters Point and take a shuttle bus to the stadium.

The only reason to keep the stadium at Candlestick was the $100 million bond issue passed in 1997 that included a retail component. But the 49ers have decided they can no longer use that money because they can’t build the stadium and retail area together.

The site opposite the airport is 180 acres, which would give the 49ers room for as much retail as they want. That part of the original plan made sense because it included entertainment areas as well as retail at all levels. It makes more sense at this site because it could be accessed so much easier from the freeways.

The main holdup on a new stadium has been financing, but a new, exciting plan like this one would probably entice more corporate support.

The 49ers badly need a new stadium. So does the area. A new stadium on this site would be a magnet for Super Bowls. As it stands now, the Bay Area has no chance for another Super Bowl. The NFL will not go to either Monster Park or McAfee Coliseum. The new Stanford Stadium is much too small, and Cal’s Memorial Stadium doesn’t have the luxury suites NFL owners demand.

The 49ers’ ownership and management has not been innovative, but San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has made bold moves. Now, he needs to make another by telling the 49ers to shift their focus to a stadium site that could actually work.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.Glenn Dickeysports

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