18 June 2007

The 101 Rivalry

So this is what passes in the Bay Area as a bidding war. Two cities, separated by 40 miles on a major freeway. One is a world-renowned city with image and attitude to spare. The other is a much smaller suburb hoping to bring in entertainment and tourist dollars.

What do San Francisco and Santa Clara have in common? Both have two of the original missions founded by Father Junipero Serra. Both have Catholic, West Coast Conference universities. The City counts GAP and Bechtel among its corporate headquarters. Santa Clara has Intel and Applied Materials. And of course, both have pieces of the 49ers: SF has the history and current stadium on its side, Santa Clara has the current headquarters/training facility.

The media is painting the situation as a tug-of-war for the team, and the NFL is doing whatever they can to perpetuate this notion by having officials visit both cities on consecutive days. Gavin Newsom gave a pull today when he said there was "no way to justify" a potential $180 million stadium investment by Santa Clara. Great America's operator, Cedar Fair, also entered the fray by announcing their opposition to the Santa Clara project, saying that the stadium could adversely affect their operations. Cedar Fair left an opening for compromise.

There's a fundamental problem with all of this posturing: Nobody's offering anything. Since a report in April about the possible use of a utility reserve, Santa Clara has been skittish about pronouncing any level of financial support, let alone a method. Cedar Fair's position mucks up the works a bit because it is essentially a hand outstretched (enormous parking garage, anyone?) San Francisco, despite its bluster, hasn't really pledged anything except for a site, which may or may not be ready by the time the team wants to start construction.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, they're stuck with the economic reality. It's all too easy to compare the A's plans favorably (no cash outlay by Fremont, financing method fairly transparent). But let's keep in mind that the 49ers' stadium will be twice as big and twice as expensive as the A's. Value engineering won't net big savings. Uncertainty causes delay, and delay means money. The Niners are counting on a revamped loan program from the NFL to provide the bulk of funds, yet the NFL can't just rubber stamp a deal since the Raiders, Saints , and Vikings are still in play and they'll be looking for loans as well.

The Niners aren't perpetuating the bidding war myth. They've been upfront about Santa Clara as Plan A, while SF is a far off Plan B. That could be to curry favor with Santa Clara. Maybe not. Whatever the case, the reality is that it's too damned expensive to build a NFL stadium these days. I'm not a Niners fan, but for many of my friends' sake, I hope they stay in the Bay Area. I'm just glad I don't have to figure it out.


anon-a-mouse said...

NFL stadia are so very different from baseball parks: the higher cost, the limited use, the increased size, the focus on weekend usage. It's a shame they can't be handled in a more regional manner, like transportation.

Since football is played mostly on Sundays, they can draw from a much larger geographical area. And their huge expense puts them out of reach for any individual city to handle on its own. These are reasons to look at them as a regional resource.

If the sharing of sales taxes and other revenue-generating benefits (not to mention event management and other operating expenses) could be worked out, it might make sense to approach the Niners situation this way.

I don't see that actually happening in the ultra-segmented Bay Area. But it might be the only way to have a sizeable public contribution, which, like it or not, will be required to keep the team here.

anthony dominguez said...

I'm not a Niners fan either (I blead Silver and Black)...but I really think this is a situation where Santa Clara and San Jose should switch roles. San Jose, with perhaps 1 million residents already and an economic powerhouse, is more of an NFL city than Santa Clara. So let San Jose pursue the Niners with their 75 acre former FMC parcel, and Santa Clara goes after an MLS (Quakes) stadium near Great America.

Georob said...

Tony, could it be that business and civic leaders in SJ just aren't as committed to getting their name on a major league team as you and others seem to be?

I mean, they pretty much crawled into a hole without dissent when Bud Selig asked them to. Now a bonafide NFL franchise wants to move to the South Bay and while San Jose has the infrastructure to accomodate such a move, they're doing nothing

Something to chew on, my friend.

Anonymous said...

anthony, i agree, but only if they change the name to "San Jose 49ers", which probably will not happen.

anthony dominguez said...

You bring up a good point. I'm not sure what to make of SJ business/civic leaders (past and present). We have the land (and money through zoning changes) for the Niners, yet we are using it all to lure a 3rd tier sports league in MLS? Trust me Rob, this bothers the hell out of me! It is my opinion, and those of many sports fans I know/talk to, that SJ deserves a lot more than just MLS. Why our leaders aren't thinking big time is beyond me. Yeah, I'm chewing on it Rob, and it tastes terrible!

Anonymous said...

For San Jose to provide funds to any sports team like the city of Santa Clara seems to be considering, a vote would be required. San Jose citizens would not likely pass such a vote and a major league team would not likely have a vote contigency be a condition of their plans. The vote San Jose needs is to get rid of the vote clause and allow the elected officials to represent the city.

Anonymous said...

I'm a season ticket holder and resident of Santa Clara, but if you look at what the 49ers are asking compared to the population of Santa Clara its over $3k per resident! My position is to walk away and let the 49ers come back with a privately funded situation. In any case, this will have to go to a public vote here too. I've got neighbors that are livid. Unless the niners put up more money on their own, it will be a landslide rejection.

bartleby said...

I am a big booster of sports generally and San Jose in particular, and would love to see NFL football in San Jose. I would have no problem voting for public funding, but only if San Jose got its name on the team.

A downtown MLB team would benefit the city by bringing 20-30K people in at least 81 times per year, plus provide a certain amount of television exposure. By contrast, virtually the only benefit of hosting an NFL team is big national exposure. Given that the 49ers' conditions are (a) we keep the name "San Francisco," and (b) you give us $160 million, I'm glad San Jose isn't pursuing them. Why would we want to spend big bucks (plus the operational expense and hassle) just to promote our neighbor up the street and reinforce the national impression that San Jose is just a suburb of San Francisco? Same for Santa Clara - if they go forward with this, they're idiots.

Anonymous said...

John York is making big mistake. He is wasting his time on building a Stadium in Santa Clara. All he want is puting more tax on Santa Clara, so he could build a Stadium.

If they the voter pass "No" and Cedar Fair don't want them build a Stadium.

If they chose Hunter Point in San Francisco. They will be no new tax and Beautiful views.

I just think they make big mistake. Just like the A's. They can't geet to Oakland and San Jose.