The impossible dream of a San Francisco stadium that could be used both for the 49ers and the 2016 Summer Olympics was crushed this week as the 49ers changed their focus to Santa Clara. In truth, San Francisco has always had about as muchchance as Fresno of landing the Olympics and building another stadium on Candlestick Point was a bad idea.
But the 49ers may have exchanged one unworkable plan for another, with their announcement in Santa Clara on Thursday.
The site the team has chosen, between Great America and the Santa Clara Convention Center and next to the 49ers’ headquarters, is a good one. The 49ers would be moving closer to the bulk of their fans and the site is easily accessible by freeways on both sides of the Bay and by rail systems, the San Jose light rail and a commuter line that runs from San Jose to Sacramento.
As a longtime observer of these stadium plans, I’ve learned that they follow a pattern. The architectural plans are precise and beautifully laid out. The timeline is exact; owner John York said Thursday they have a definite date for opening the stadium — the start of the 2012 season. But when the talk turns to finances, everything suddenly gets fuzzy.
It was no different Thursday. Even the total cost was an imprecise figure: $600 million to $800 million.
The charts were up to show that the 49ers would not ask for anything from the Santa Clara general fund or new taxes. But Santa Clara will have to be involved in some fashion for the 49ers to qualify for the NFL program that lends money to clubs which have a combination of public and private financing.
So, what would be Santa Clara’s role? Asked the question in several different ways, Lisa Lang, the club’s director of communications, answered with variations of, “We’ve only begun to explore ways of doing this.”
Even if Santa Clara is involved, the most the 49ers could get from the NFL would be $150 million and only if the team contributes
$300 million. That would be a real stretch because the 49ers don’t have the backing they had years ago of a deep-pockets DeBartolo Corp. When the corporation was split between EddieDeBartolo and Denise DeBartolo York, Eddie got the stock of a subsidiary, Simon DeBartolo, and Denise got the team. Eddie’s stock has escalated greatly in value and he was on the most recent list in Fortune magazine of the richest Americans, with a net worth estimated at $1.5 billion. Denise was not on the list.
York has been trying for some time to get a minority partner into the mix, to raise money that could be used for the new stadium. But nobody is interested without the kind of deal in which Chris Cohan bought into the Warriors, giving him the right to buy the team at a later date — a right he exercised. York isn’t willing to do that because he doesn’t want to sell the team. He also said Thursday, “I haven’t even thought about Los Angeles. These are the San Francisco 49ers.”
So, it seems to be a stalemate. The 49ers don’t have the money to build a stadium, so they’re stuck at Candlestick.
Those architectural drawings are sure pretty, though.