Wire services and others have picked up on an idea that 49ers spokesperson Lisa Lang has put out there: the 49ers may be interested in buying Great America to make the stadium work. Certainly it sounds interesting on the surface, but there probably isn't much to it. Here's why:
- Cedar Fair has already said it isn't interested in selling. The company only bought the portfolio of theme parks from Paramount a little over a year ago. A look at recent press releases shows that the newly acquired parks have underperformed relative to Cedar Fair's other properties. Cedar Fair notes that they've only begun the transition phase to bring the Paramount parks in line with their regular operations model. This is all part of a long-term strategy. You'd think they'd want to give Great America a shot at raising its performance before it gives up on Santa Clara. After all, it is their core competency. Of course, Cedar Fair's statements are pure PR-speak and should be taken with a grain of salt, but it still makes sense in the end.
- How much would Great America be worth? The Paramount portfolio was acquired for $1.24 billion. That's 5 parks. One article notes that the land's assessed value is $114 million but that's virtually meaningless. The 49ers would be buying the whole kit and caboodle. A more realistic estimate would be 1/5th of the portfolio, or $240 million. But the land is owned by the city, not Cedar Fair, so it could be worth less. So what is a fair price? And then what would happen after it's sold? The 49ers would have to turn around and have someone operate the park since that's not what they do. Would they want to develop some portion of the land to recoup their investment? Even if Cedar Fair were playing hardball to secure a good price for their investors, they're in a position that gives them leverage. They're not in an apparently desperate position in which they're hemorrhaging cash. Note: Stock gains from the months following the acquisition have been wiped out as Cedar Fair reported the recent drag on the company's performance from the Paramount parks.
Bottom line, Lang says: "There are a number of site configurations (Cedar Fair) could look at if they are serious about wanting to go forward with the project."It's a bad sign when most of the so-called negotiations are occurring through the media. Is the city supposed to shepherd this through? It's hard to say.
To add intrigue to the situation, former 49er President Carmen Policy is signing on with the SF/Lennar effort to pitch a stadium at Hunters Point.