Jed York

New 49ers stadium in Santa Clara: all systems go for 2014 (Super Bowl in 2016?)

If you’re a member of the San Francisco 49ers’ ownership group or a huge fan of driving to Santa Clara (okay, okay, or taking CalTrain to Santa Clara), the good news just keeps on coming. According to SFGate, there’s a good chance the Niners will only play at Candlestick Park for two more seasons.

Santa Clara leaders approved plans Tuesday night for a new 49ers stadium by the 2014 season, finalizing the team’s exit from San Francisco sooner than expected.

The City Council voted 5-1 to support an $878.6 million contract that calls for kicking off construction on the 68,500-seat stadium in July, about six months earlier than anticipated, and finishing by August 2014, in time for the exhibition season.

Since there are potential legal battles whenever local politics and 9-figure loans are involved, there is a potential legal battle on the horizon that could slow things down. However, other than one group’s petition (and the little matter of the Niners’ lease at Candlestick running through the 2014 season), this project seems to be as close to obstacle-free as one could expect — especially in California.

A group against the stadium, Santa Clara Plays Fair, has collected signatures to call for a referendum on the $850 million loan, saying voters were not fully informed of the financial risks when they approved the project by nearly 60 percent in June 2010.

The city has rejected the group’s petitions, and the battle is expected to be settled in court.

I figured that if the stadium was to be built, there’s no way it would be done early enough for the 2014 season since projects of this magnitude almost always seem to run into delays. But one thing that might push the 49ers (and Santa Clara) to make sure the stadium is built either on or ahead of schedule is the possibility that the NFL will choose this theoretical Casa de York as the site of Super Bowl L … provided they get their stuff together in time.

The 49ers, meanwhile, say they plan to throw their hat into the ring for a future Super Bowl but have not yet decided whether to shoot for Super Bowl L, which will be played in February 2016, or one of the ensuing games. The team aims to open its new billion-dollar stadium in 2014, and teams are required to play two full seasons in their new venues before hosting a Super Bowl.

The NFL will probably choose the host city/stadium for Super Bowl L in the next couple months, and while there are several requirements for Super Bowl sites, the 49ers may be able to get the Super Bowl they want in 2016 without guaranteeing that the stadium will be open for two full seasons. After all, one of the many stipulations to host the “big game” is that the game must be played in “A dome or outdoor stadium if average January temperature is 50 degrees or higher,” and the NFL waived that requirement when it awarded the 2014 Super Bowl to MetLife Stadium, an outdoor facility in East Rutherford, NJ.

As I’ve stated before, I have a completely irrational soft spot in my heart for Candlestick Park, and for selfish reasons (like living in the middle of San Francisco) I wanted the 49ers to stay within the city limits. But at this point I’m resigned to the 49ers’ South Bay fate, as well as the tradeoffs involved:

Good: the 49ers won’t vaguely threaten their fans and/or local municipalities with a move to Los Angeles for at least a few decades.

Bad: tickets are going to be ridiculously expensive, with prices driven up by the 49ers’ desire to pay back their loans from Santa Clara and the NFL. Also, demand in the secondary markets will skyrocket due to so-called “casual fans” who want to gain entry into the newest hip sports venue. We can call this the “Pac Bell Park effect.”

Good: it’d be interesting to see another Super Bowl in the Bay Area, 30+ years after the 49ers beat the Dolphins at the old Stanford Stadium.

Bad: stadium deals are rarely (if ever) a good financial move for a community. Case in point: “The $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium (where the most recent Super Bowl took place), where the New York Giants (met) the New England Patriots on Feb. 5, has prompted local officials to raise hotel, restaurant and rental car taxes, and make other payments on top of about $43 million in unexpected financing costs related to their sports and convention facilities.”

There are going to be far more tradeoffs, including unexpected positives and negatives that arise. The key is that they ARE going to arise, because this stadium looks like it’ll become a reality. One last note: you have to hand it to Jed York, after a couple years of bumbling around and talking about winning while his team was going 6-10, he got the coach he wanted and led the charge on a new stadium. The latter feat is something his beloved uncle never accomplished.

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