City's Plan to Keep 49ers: Wait and Hope Team, Santa Clara Are Broke

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You're broke, I can fix it.
We'll spare you the football jargon, but suffice to say the San Francisco 49ers took a huge step towards saying goodbye to Candlestick Park on Tuesday night. Voters in Santa Clara approved at the ballot a land lease deal for a proposed $937 million stadium by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Of that $937 million, nearly $440 million would come from public funds.

Not paid for yet

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has in the past received criticism for his perceived failure to keep the team playing home games in Bayview/Hunters Point (this despite the fact that the team headquarters and practice facility are already in Santa Clara, and it's not exactly Newsom's fault that Candlestick Park is a crumbling dump).

However, fresh off his victory in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, he wasn't in a conceding mood on Wednesday morning. Newsom fired off a press release wherein he outlined the city's latest strategy to keep the team within city limits: wait. And pray that Santa Clara can't find the money.

"The vote in Santa Clara is truly only the first step down a very long road towards building a stadium there," Newsom said. "The stadium plan is built on shaky economic ground, and a significant math problem and financing gaps remain."

Indeed: although the NFL and the team have pledged almost $500 million for the stadium's financing in construction, nothing is certain in today's credit market. If you're broke, you can't build, and with the dialogue between San Francisco and the 49ers all but extinct, the wait-and-see approach seems to be the last, best option.

At some point the city will have to come to grips with the team leaving and update its redevelopment plans for the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard project, the centerpiece of which was to be the football stadium. But that decision could be as long as five years down the road, Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker told SF Weekly.

Should the stadium plan be abandoned, housing will be built in its stead and added to the estimated 10,000 units to be build on the site. What's more, housing should provide more long-term economic stability to the area than a stadium used for only eight home games a year.

"We won't miss a beat [with the redevelopment project]," Winnicker said. "We haven't turned our backs on the 49ers... hopefully they won't turn their backs on the Bayview."

The team seems to have already done so: the 49ers' Web site is all new stadium, all the time. But artists' renderings can't host football games, and in this case, Santa Clara's financial loss would be SF's gain. In the sense that keeping the Stick around for a few more years is a gain.

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