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City council approves 49ers stadium negotiations

By Jason Bennert

January 16, 2008

The City of Santa Clara and the San Francisco 49ers stopped dating and got serious Tuesday night.

The Santa Clara City Council voted 6-1 to begin formal negotiations with the 49ers over the terms of constructing a new stadium for the team.

The 49ers current home, San Francisco's aging Monster Park, is the oldest unrenovated stadium in the National Football League. The proposed new 65,000-seat stadium is projected to cost as much as $854 million with additional associated costs, including moving an electric substation adjacent to the stadium site and relocating a parking garage, which would bring the total project cost to an estimated $916 million.

The Santa Clara city manager's office spent eight months studying the feasibility of the 49ers stadium proposal. Tuesday night, they recommended that the city council proceed with negotiations with the 49ers with several key caveats, most importantly that the city contribution to the project's cost have a hard cap of $136 million.

"The absolute limit of the city... financing capability is $136 million," Assistant City Manager Ron Garratt told the council.

Another major unresolved issue is the position of Cedar Fair Entertainment, the company that operates Great America. Their opposition could potentially kill the project because of their lease with the City. To date, the company has not been enthusiastic about the project and rejected the 49ers preferred stadium site, the park's main parking lot. 49ers team executive Jed York, the son of team owners Denise DeBartolo York and her husband John York, told the city council that the new stadium would be "a home that will keep the 49ers as a Bay Area treasure for the next 60 years."

However, when asked by Councilman Will Kennedy, York would not promise that the 49ers would not also pursue a new stadium in San Francisco while negotiating with Santa Clara.

"We would continue to evaluate back-up sites until... there's a deal in place," York said. York did tell the council that the team is not currently in talks with San Francisco and has no plans to do so.

Any final deal negotiated by the 49ers and city officials would most likely be put before Santa Clara voters sometime this year. The council is scheduled to discuss a ballot measure regarding the stadium project at its Jan. 22 meeting.

Councilwoman Jamie McLeod opposed beginning negotiations with the team after concluding that the project was not feasible.

"I simply believe that the project is not the best use of our resources," McLeod said. "We should look to build a better project with more benefits and fewer drawbacks."

Following the council vote, York said he was ecstatic about proceeding and the team is ready for a public vote on the proposal. He said whether the vote is in June or in November would not impact the stadium's construction schedule.

"We need to make sure schedule-wise we have a complete plan for the citizens of Santa Clara to vote on,'' York said.

York also promised to do "back flips'' if the citizens of Santa Clara approve the stadium proposal by the same 6-1 margin that the council voted Tuesday night.


Copyright © 2008 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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