Expectations on the field are fairly high for the 49ers this year, but off it, they appear the unquestioned front-runners for the top spot in fantasy football.
That would explain how it is that the outbound team is pursuing legal action against San Francisco for allegedly improperly maintaining Candlestick Park, the site of its league games and the place that the organization has been trying to leave for years.
I mention this for the simple reason that the team opened training camp at its Santa Clara headquarters last week with a self-congratulatory shindig over its recent ballot victory to move its new stadium to an adjoining site. And this came on the heels of San Francisco’s approval of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard project, a massive housing and retail development that, at least in theory, will include space for a 69,000-seat stadium for the 49ers if things turn out to be less joyous than a ride at Santa Clara’s Great America theme park.
So, there’s more than a hint of irony in the fact that the team continues to haggle with San Francisco over its lease at Candlestick more than a decade after city voters graciously awarded it $100 million toward a new stadium that never got built because the team’s owners, the York family, were either too cheap or too reluctant to go for the gold.
The recent claim, filed within days of the ballot victory to move the team to Santa Clara, suggests that the 49ers have lost revenue because the team has failed to keep up Candlestick as required in the original lease signed in 1969. The key term here is the date, 41 years ago, which should tell you all about the team’s structural problems, at Candlestick and at their new home.
All the maneuvering just highlights a deep hole dug by the team that it can’t get out of. The 49ers’ endless desire to move has dragged on for so long that it still must play in the NFL’s oldest and most-antiquated stadium. And it must negotiate for “improvements” to that structure with a city that has absolutely no incentive to please the organization because it’s essentially haggling about $1 million a year, a pittance by mega-salary industry standards.
Showing signs of unmitigated hubris, the 49ers last year submitted a request to The City for nearly $62 million in repairs to Candlestick while the team engaged in a frenetic effort to move to Santa Clara. The demand did generate some chuckles around City Hall, but it only got the team a few hundred thousand dollars in rent credits.
That’s what happens when you give up your bargaining power. It’s the equivalent of a training camp holdout, except the team doesn’t really care if the player reports.
And the stadium-improvement claims are little more than a smokescreen for much greater deficiencies, the largest being that the Yorks must still find financing for a $937 million stadium and there’s likely no sources from which to receive it. Team president Jed York told reporters that he was “unfazed” by the need to secure more than $500 million in financing for the Santa Clara stadium, which shows that either he’s cooler than Joe Montana under pressure or that organization members have become delusional.
The 49ers don’t need Alex Smith. They need Larry Ellison.
Forget for a moment that no new stadium or major development project comes in close to the estimated cost, which means that the structure will cost the team and the good citizens of Santa Clara more than $1 billion.
Think instead of the fact that better-run franchises with new stadiums, such as the New York Giants, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, haven’t been able to sell naming rights. The Giants and Jets stadium was largely financed by the league, but the NFL said it doesn’t have any money to help the 49ers in their quest.
And word is the economy is not exactly robust.
But, hey, why should anyone let little details get in the way of another optimistic season? Sure, Candlestick is decrepit, but it’s no longer a money pit.
That role now falls to Santa Clara.