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Newsom shocked at likelyhood of 49ers departure

Officials debate legal challenges

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service


November 10, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom expressed his shock Thursday over news that chances of keeping the 49ers in the city are slimmer than completing a Hail Mary pass.

But Newsom also said any plans for team co-owner John York to move the stadium to the city of Santa Clara, significantly hurting the city's 2016 Olympics bid, would meet resistance.

"We're going to fight this to the extent that is appropriate," Newsom said. "You can't just say, 'hey, we're going to pack up and leave'... It's not that easy."

City officials had been working on building a new stadium as part of a redevelopment plan to bring the Olympics to the city in 2016. Newsom said that redevelopment would continue with or without a stadium.

"Millions of dollars spent ... most of their money, respectfully, has been spent on a stadium that clearly now is portable," Newsom said. "This is not good for the Bayview Hunters Point community. I don't think it's good for the city. But we're not going to sell our souls. I recognize that my mandate is to the people of San Francisco, sports fans and otherwise."

The mayor said City Attorney Dennis Herrera was already looking into ways of challenging the move through legal means. Spokeswoman Alexis Truchan said that while it's early on, the city attorney's office has already determined there is at least one way to stall a deal.

"If the team leaves, there is legal basis to examine their continued use of the name," Truchan said.

Similar moves around the National Football League have led to teams coming up with new names. In 1996, after years of bitter legal challenges, the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore after changing their name to the Ravens.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday that a 49ers move would not be in the same category. He mentioned the New York Jets, who play in East Rutherford, N.J. and the Dallas Cowboys, who will play in Arlington, Texas starting in 2009.

Aiello said he doesn't see any problems occurring with a stadium move.

"Any time a team moves its stadium location it has to be approved by three quarters of owners," said Aiello of the NFL's 32 team owners.

But several fans throughout the city expressed outrage after hearing the news. Season ticket holder Barbara Ross said she wouldn't renew her seats.

"I've been a fan from Kezar to Candlestick and I can't believe they would take my team from the city," Ross said. "You think someone's going to fly across the country to stay in Santa Clara?"

The 49ers played their first 24 seasons at Kezar Stadium, located at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park. They moved to Candlestick Point in 1971, and have played there since.

Newsom said he will do everything he can to continue the tradition.

"Just because they had a press conference and I got a call late last night saying 'all the work we've done, now we're moving to Santa Clara. Thank you very much San Francisco. We really did love you. It's been a great working relationship all these years, but, you know, business is business. That just doesn't happen that easily."

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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