PG&E, San Francisco vow to uncover causes of 49ers game 'embarrassment' 

click to enlarge Investigation: PG&E blamed spliced pole wiring for the first power outage during Monday’s game between the 49ers and Steelers, but the cause of the second blackout is still under investigation. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP file photo
  • Investigation: PG&E blamed spliced pole wiring for the first power outage during Monday’s game between the 49ers and Steelers, but the cause of the second blackout is still under investigation.

A “national embarrassment” is how Mayor Ed Lee described Monday night’s power outage at Candlestick Park during one of the most hyped 49ers games in nearly a decade.

Sporting his 49ers cap during a news conference Tuesday, Lee said he apologized to the team and vowed that measures are being taken to prevent future outages, including at any upcoming playoff games.

The nationwide audience tuned into “Monday Night Football” witnessed not one, but two power failures. The first mishap at 5:20 p.m. delayed kickoff, and then another shutdown at 6:45 p.m. slowed the beginning of the second quarter.

When the lights went dim, the mayor was among the fans inside the aging stadium, which The City manages and leases to the team.

“Oh, my God,” Lee remembered thinking when the lights went down. “Certainly, I was concerned for the fans.”
Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said 25 to 40 people in two luxury boxes were cleared out due to smoke emanating from nearby electrical boxes, but no other part of the stadium was evacuated.

Early on Tuesday, the exact reason for the outage was the subject of debate between The City and PG&E, with both sides claiming the other’s infrastructure was to blame.

Although original reports indicated an exploded transformer triggered the first outage, it was actually the failure of a spliced pole wire managed by PG&E, according to utility officials. Still, PG&E officials on Tuesday stopped short of taking responsibility for the outage because it remains under investigation.

The cause of the second outage remains in question. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Executive Director Ed Harrington acknowledged on Tuesday that a city-controlled switch that allows the use of an alternative power source inside the park could have played a role. Likewise, Harrington was quick to note that the matter remains under investigation.

By Tuesday afternoon, the finger-pointing had subsided, with a PG&E spokesman rescinding earlier statements that the city-owned circuit switch was the main cause of the debacle. The City and the utility agreed that the two should work together to “get to the bottom of what happened” and ensure it never occurs again.

That was the primary concern of the NFL and 49ers officials, who were still seeking answers on Tuesday, but praised The City and PG&E for their swift response to the problem.

“No one likes the kind of uncertainty that this situation produced,” Jim Mercurio, 49ers vice president of stadium operations, said in a statement.

The game represented the team’s single biggest step in a return to the national spotlight after eight seasons without a winning record. Niners officials have complained about the haggard state of Candlestick in the past and hope to move into a new, $1 billion stadium in Santa Clara in 2015.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

Candlestick facts

1960: Candlestick Park built as home for Giants
1971: 49ers begin playing at Candlestick
2000: Giants move to a new ballpark
2006: 49ers begin plans for a new stadium in Santa Clara
2011: 49ers secure an $850 million loan toward new stadium construction

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Dan Schreiber

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