When the 49ers’ plan for a stadium in Santa Clara falls apart, as it will because John York
couldn’t plan a two-car funeral, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom should be prepared with his own plan.
Forget putting it within the San Francisco city limits. Both Candlestick Point and Hunter’s Point are deeply flawed sites and there is no other workable one.
The City owns 180 acres opposite the airport, though, a site I wrote about June 30. Access would be great because it’s adjacent to Highway 101 and Interstate 380 and only a short distance from I-280. The BART extension and a Caltrain stop are both nearby. It would be closer to the bulk of the 49ers’ fan base in the South Bay and, because of the easy access, would be more convenient than Candlestick for those living north of the site.
It would also be easy to revive the plan for retail that was an important part of the 1997 plan for building at Candlestick.
They could still be the San Francisco 49ers and the tailgating the 49ers want would be a snap because the parking lot could be much larger than what’s currently available at Candlestick.
The sticking point has always been the financing. Carmen Policy had a firm plan for financing in the 1997 plan, but every time I’ve talked to anybody since then about a new stadium, they say something like, “We’ve got a great plan in place, but we have to work out the financing.”
But if you don’t have the financing, you don’t have a plan.
There is plenty of money in the Bay Area, though, especially in Silicon Valley. Larry Ellison has made it known that he would like to buy the 49ers — and there are others out there. York, who enjoys being a member of the NFL owners club, doesn’t want to sell a controlling interest. He’s been trying for years to get a limited partner, but who wants to commit money to a club run by the hapless York?
Meanwhile, the money is running out in the NFL’s G-3 program, in which the league gives up to $150 million to teams building new stadiums on a private-public basis, if they contribute twice as much to the project.
So, it all comes back to the York family. Denise DeBartolo York controls the purse strings and those who know her think she’ll never agree to spend the millions that would be necessary for the new stadium.
Newsom needs to enlist the NFL’s support in persuading York to sell the controlling interest to Ellison or one of the other bidders. He needs to talk to friends of the DeBartolo family who could convince Denise of the desirability of selling. She might listen. She has to be tired of the public criticism of her husband and the 49ers are not doing well financially. It’s almost impossible for an NFL club to lose money, but the 49ers have had to buy up a ton of tickets to keep home games on local TV, perhaps as many as 20,000-25,000 a game.
With the right owner and the right site, the 49ers could get a new stadium and prosper. But as long as York is in charge, there will be no new stadium, not in Santa Clara, not in San Francisco, not anywhere.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.