I’d like to tell you that the details on the proposed move of the San Francisco 49ers to Santa Clara are a little sketchy. But I can’t because there are no details.
None. Nada. Zip. But boy, are they just full of hope down south. So much so that they can’t wait to began negotiating with co-owner John York and his band of merry travelers about their shared vision of gridiron dreams.
“I have nothing but enthusiasm about any proposal to get the San Francisco 49ers to move here,’’ Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan told me. “To have the stadium across from where their headquarters is would be a thrill beyond belief.’’
The key words there are “beyond belief” — which is exactly the reaction just about every city official involved in the stadium deal and the failed Olympic bid had over York’s decision to cut and run to the South Bay. So a word of advice to the anxious mayor: Be careful what you wish for. Any assurances coming from the 49ers these days are worth the price of half of a ticket stub to the next home game.
I talked to a number of people who have been involved in the stadium quagmire over the last 10 years and every one of them has expressed shock over the decision and the timing of the announcement that may have lost a team and flat-out killed a promising regional Olympic bid. And the general fan response ranges from dumbfounded to outright furious that a deal that had been moving toward the goal line would be purposely fumbled without reason.
“I think it was handled so poorly that you really have to wonder about the judgment,’’ said one person who has been involved with the team for more than a decade. “You have to know that the way it’s been done that The City was going to be embarrassed, upset and that there would be hard feelings galore.’’
And that it would unleash the very political forces against the team that would have been helpful in clearing the many legislative hurdles it would face as the deal inched closer to completion. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, have already weighed in with the possibility of crafting bills that would stop the team from taking The City’s name with it if it moves. But even if that proves difficult, the key here is that any support it might have found in Washington or Sacramento is about as likely as the team winning the Super Bowl this year. Or maybe in 2010.
“It certainly puts their challenges in perspective,’’ Mayor Gavin Newsom said. “The disappointment is manifested throughout the elected family. The timing couldn’t have been better for a deal now, especially with the election and the passage of the state’s infrastructure bonds.’’
So if the 49ers were looking to win fans and influence people, they’re headed full speed in the wrong direction behind a truly offensive line. And you really have to wonder why the team owners would go to such great lengths to alienate their longtime supporters, their allies in government, their development partners and everybody else involved in the stadium and Olympic plans.
But they did make a few friends in Santa Clara, even if they’re just as much in the dark as everybody in the city of St. Francis. Mahan told me that the extent of knowledge about the 49ers plans extends to two phone calls — one last Wednesday when they were told that an announcement was going to be made (though not the announcement itself) and the other at a press conference in Santa Clara when the 49ers new desired destination was unveiled.
Other than that, City Council members know as much as you and I and apparently the team’s owners about the 49ers’ new home field. There’s no design, no drawings, no planning — just a parcel of city-owned land near Paramount’s Great America amusement park that the council appears joyous to hand over.
Can you say roller coaster ride?
“They say they are going to bring a proposal forth and we will certainly entertain it,’’ Mayor Mahan told me. “The city is prepared to begin looking at a specific proposal.’’
And who’s going to fund the $600 million to $800 million stadium?
“The only assurance that we have as a city is that it’s not going to require any city funding or tax increases,’’ she said.
So there won’t be any public funding for the stadium, which means the Yorks will have to pull a rabbit and several hundred million dollars out of their helmet.
It sounds like a great game plan — the NFL’s first virtual stadium.
Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (415) 359-2663.