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San Francisco 49ers shift focus of new stadium to Santa Clara

By Matt Wynkoop, Bay City News Service


November 9, 2006

The San Francisco 49ers announced in a statement today that negotiations to build a new stadium in San Francisco have gone sour and that the team's new focus will be to build a stadium in Santa Clara or somewhere else in the Bay Area.

The statement reported that the team reached its conclusion based on an assessment that a new stadium in San Francisco would not provide "optimal game day experience'' for fans. The organization will now move toward building a state-of-the-art NFL stadium closer to the team's current headquarters and practice facility in Santa Clara.

The decision, made by 49ers co-owner John York, also stemmed from incompatible land requirements needed for a new stadium and mixed-use development at Candlestick Point, according to the statement.

"We hired the best experts and advisors in the business and worked tirelessly with the City and Lennar Corp. to move forward with this project at Candlestick Point,'' York said in the statement.

The team has scheduled a news conference today to formally announce its plans to move from San Francisco.

A spokesman close to negotiations with the 49ers who asked not to be identified said that when York informed Mayor Gavin Newsom Wednesday evening of plans to move the team, the decision was met with "anger, shock and disappointment.''

"I want to commend Mayor Newsom and his staff and Lennar (Corp.) for their support and determination over the past year in this enormous undertaking,'' York said in the statement. "This decision is not a reflection of their efforts, but rather the geographic challenges of this site.''

It was just four months ago that York announced updated design plans for a privately funded stadium at Candlestick Park that was expected to replace Monster Park by the 2012 NFL season.

According to the 49ers' statement, efforts will now concentrate on evaluating a stadium site in Santa Clara, near the Great America amusement park and the Santa Clara Convention Center. The proposed site would supposedly offer easier traffic access to fans coming from all over the Bay Area, the team said.

"We're excited to work with Santa Clara officials to discuss this project,'' said York. "Based on our initial analysis, Santa Clara has strong potential to deliver the game day experience our fans deserve.''

The team is now expected to meet with Santa Clara officials to begin negotiations for the project.

Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan said in the team's statement that Santa Clara has been looking to expand its entertainment options in recent years and that an NFL stadium would be a great addition in Santa Clara.

"We are ready to give this project our full attention,'' Mahan said in the statement.

The team's statement highlighted transportation restrictions as the major difficulty with a new stadium at Candlestick Point, specifically the "limiting and deteriorating road access that would have been overwhelmed by the stadium and planned mix-use development.''

An absence of reliable public transportation service to Candlestick Point, as well as the need for a new multi-level parking garage, also posed problems, according to the statement.

In the event that construction of a new stadium in Santa Clara is not possible, the 49ers said they would search for a new site somewhere else in the Bay Area.

"The 49ers have called the Bay Area home for our entire 60-year history,'' said York in the statement. "We are part of a fabric of this region, and we intend to stay right here where we belong.''

According to York's statement, the 49ers departure from San Francisco would not result in a change of the team's name.

In 1997 San Francisco voters approved $100 million in bonds to help finance a new stadium complex in the City with an attached shopping mall, but the plan never got off the ground.

In 1998, former 49ers owner Eddie Debartolo Jr. sold the team to his sister Denise Debartolo York and her husband John.

The 49ers' exit from Monster Park, known to longtime fans as Candlestick Park, would leave the stadium without any tenants, as the San Francisco Giants left the park for the privately funded AT&T Park in 2000.

The 49ers current lease at Monster Park runs through the 2008 NFL season.

Copyright © 2006 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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