In an era where cities across the United States are clamoring for an NFL franchise of their own, San Francisco is apparently allowing their franchise, the San Francisco 49ers and all the economic advantages they bring to the city, to slip away without so much as a whisper. Why are San Franciscans not screaming in outrage? Why is there no 49er fan lament for the “tragic end of an era” of a 66 year tradition? Why indeed.
One possible answer is that the city of San Francisco and the 49er fans have bought the prevailing misconception that in a relatively small city like San Francisco, there was simply no other alternative available for the 49ers to stay in San Francisco. On the contrary, as the late Paul Harvey would say, “And now, the rest of the story”…
What Really Is Going On
In a most recent public interview on KKSF radio, Leonard Stefanelli along with Joe Martin and Ken Dito revealed some startling facts. For the entire time of negotiation with the 49ers, San Francisco not only had a viable third option open to them, but this option is one many consider to be the best possible property for a sports stadium complex in the entire state of California.
Len Stefanelli, the original author of this option, had offered then-Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, 300 to 600 acres of property in the city of Brisbane Ca. flanked on three sides by San Francisco, and a mere 100 yards south of the city itself. What makes this property so attractive is that it is directly accessible by three key elements of transportation infrastructure all ready in place.
First, Caltrain runs directly through the Brisbane property itself. Secondly, highway 101 runs directly adjacent to the property . Lastly, all San Francisco “Muni” buses would dead-end right at the proposed stadium site itself. While technically in Brisbane, the 49ers, in practicality, would still be playing very much in and apart of San Francisco just as if they were still at Candlestick Park.
So why isn’t the new 49ers stadium in Brisbane under construction this very minute? Who is responsible? Who is the apparent antagonist in this tragic tale of a city that is losing its NFL franchise? Why, it’s none other than Gavin Newsom.
Gavin Newsom…Incompetence or Malfeasance?
That is a question to be left up to the court of public opinion to answer. Either way, San Francisco is wrongly losing the 49ers after the 2013 season. It’s a terrible shame for the city of San Francisco and a big demerit for Gavin Newsom. If there is a culprit in this case, Gavin Newsom most certainly fits the bill. He allegedly did everything he could to shove the Hunters Point property down the throat of the 49ers while turning down Leonard Stefanelli’s Brisbane option on 3 separate occasions. Like a broken record, he would continue to simply repeat the mantra “The 49ers stadium is going to be at Hunters Point, period”.
Now, why would Gavin Newsom be so stubborn about Hunters Point? Especially, if the only other alternative meant that the 49ers would be forced to leave San Francisco all together? What was it about Hunters Point that was so special to Gavin Newsom? What could he have possibly been thinking? Rumor has it that Newsom allegedly placed his personal relationship with the Pelosi family and their relationship with the Lennar Corporation above the concerns of the citizens of San Francisco in this matter. However, one can only speculate. Well, whatever the reason, in the end, it was Gavin Newsom who left the 49ers with no other option but to leave San Francisco.
The 49ers would not and could not entertain the possibility of building a stadium at Hunters Point. Hunters Point is a relatively small peninsula with a bottleneck road access and no infrastructure whatsoever and never will be.
The stadium would have been utterly impossible to get to. Secondly, and most importantly, Hunters Point, a former U.S. naval ship yard, is heavily contaminated with toxic and radiological waste. The site is federally designated as a “Superfund” site, slated for “long term clean up”.
Similarly, the Santa Clara stadium has it’s own severe problems of accessibility. To start with, the site sits roughly fifty miles south of San Francisco. Access to Candlestick Park has always been bad enough even though it is fairly close to Hwy 101 with 110 acres of parking surrounding it. Brisbane will have 300 to 600 acres available. In Santa Clara they are attempting to “shoe horn” a 14 acre stadium onto a mere 17 acres of land…… 17 acres of land!?
Santa Clara Site
Apart from a single Caltrain stop near the 49er practice field, there is no direct access to this stadium. It is not directly adjacent to any freeway which means a nightmare type traffic jam to anyone who attempts to drive there, not to mention the upheaval it will mean to surrounding residences and businesses. Once one reaches the stadium in a car, they will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to park when there is no parking. They will have share parking with the Great America theme park… On Sundays, the same day the theme park is open. and you can forget the tailgate party.
Personal Seat Licensing (PSL) – Extra Fees for Season Ticket Holders
Unfortunately for 49er fans, the new Santa Clara stadium requires Personal Seat Licensing (PSL) to finance the new stadium along with (now) almost one billion dollars in loans from the city of Santa Clara. These PSL fees are imposed on all 49er season ticket holders if they wish to retain their seats. This is a fee over above the price of the season ticket itself. Reports are that the PSL for one single seat is as high as $80,000. One gentleman who has reportedly owned 14 seats for 44 years at Candlestick Park is being asked to pay nearly $280,000 in PSLs alone.
The apparent sad truth is that the Santa Clara Stadium is boondoggle. The 49er season ticket holder would not have to pay these confiscatory PSLs on top of having to travel fifty miles away to see their own team in another city, if the Brisbane opportunity were put into action.
There is a current 2 billion dollar package on the table of private financing from and/or through HKS Inc. the designer and builders of the proven successful facilities of the new Dallas and Indianapolis Stadiums, and the same private sources to build a stadium for the 49ers in Brisbane.
Most importantly this would mean NO PSL fees for the 49er season ticket holder and NO guaranteed loans from San Francisco and/or the City of Brisbane, not to mention the multiple modes of direct transportation access making the Brisbane property the obvious, best and clear choice for all concerned.
Is it Too Late to Bring The 49ers Home?
Well the conventional wisdom says “Yes it is too late”. The 49ers have a contractual commitment with Santa Clara. They have broken ground down there and construction is underway. However, there are others who say “The 49ers haven’t left yet”. Validating the latter, there are indeed looming financial and logistical problems with the Santa Clara stadium already. Also, rumors abound that the 49er PSL sales are not going well. If these rumors were found to be true, given the condition of the economy, would anybody be surprised? Not Likely.
Skyrocketing Costs Beyond Voter Approval
As for the city of Santa Clara, Their voters had previously approved $750 million in loans for the new stadium…then despite voter protest the amount was arbitrarily raised by the city to $850 million…then there was another $75 million dollars worth of interest that wasn’t previously factored in to raise the amount to $925 million ….that debt has now apparently soared to $1.2 billion dollars. Almost a half billion dollars above and beyond voter approval.
There is now talk of an appeal by Santa Clara citizens for a new vote of approval to fund the stadium at the current cost. If that should occur…..construction on the Santa Clara stadium will be halted. There are reports of a growing anti-49er sentiment in Santa Clara to suggest that this is a real possibility.
If this were to indeed occur, then presumably, all bets would be off and that would allow the 49ers to become available to return home to San Francisco to take advantage of the Stefanelli/HKS Brisbane opportunity. In the best interest of common sense and logic, not to mention, preserving the heart, history, and tradition for the 49ers and their fans in San Francisco….. Let’s pray for that new vote.
Stay tuned for new updates.
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Written by Jack Leonardini