29 March 2007

Show me the money, Niners

I was going to compare the San Francisco and Santa Clara 49ers stadium concepts in this space, but I'll refrain because Ann Killion's column in the Merc captures my thinking almost exactly. For the the Niners it all comes down to one question: How does it get financed? Very little of the information released about the two sites talks about who pays for what. I don't think this is the 49ers hiding anything, I think they simply don't know.

Maybe they're looking for a ginormous loan from the NFL, such as the one approved on Tuesday by the owners for the $1.7 billion Giants/Jets stadium. The previous debt limit imposed on teams that applied for the league's G-3 stadium loan program was $150 million. How much would the 49ers need above that initial amount? The $200 million being sought from Santa Clara's utility reserve? More?

The San Francisco plan doesn't shed anymore light, though to be fair it was conceived by the City and developer Lennar with little input from the team. In the proposal, there's no mention of financing either, except that the City vows not to tap the General Fund to make the stadium alternative work.

There's a good deal of optimism coming from 49er headquarters, but there isn't much substance to back it up. Even though Lew Wolff hasn't yet published the A's plans, at least he's given some indication as to what he plans to do, and has backed it up with land acquisitions and the Cisco partnership. In Santa Clara, the tide is already starting to turn against the stadium proposal with the release of data showing potential rate hikes if the Niners go with the reserve fund. They need to get control of the situation. Stat.