San Francisco had its chance with 49ers 

click to enlarge Under the bridge: John York, right, could have kept the 49ers in The City, but that ship has sailed with the groundbreaking. - US PRESSWIRE FILE PHOTO
  • US PRESSWIRe file photo
  • Under the bridge: John York, right, could have kept the 49ers in The City, but that ship has sailed with the groundbreaking.

The whining by San Franciscans because the 49ers are building a stadium in Santa Clara is pathetic. The DeBartolos and Yorks tried to build a new stadium at Candlestick Point but circumstances and politics prevented that. They had no choice but to move south.

The plan that should have worked was the 1997 scheme for Candlestick Point promoted by then-club president Carmen Policy and owner Eddie DeBartolo; Carmen did the thinking and Eddie did the drinking when they went through North Beach promoting the bond issue for San Francisco that won by a very narrow victory. The bond issue was vital because the NFL’s program to give money to teams building stadiums requires that it be a public-private operation, which the Santa Clara stadium is.

The 1997 plan involved much more than a stadium, incorporating huge movie theaters and retail shopping from bargain outlets to the Neiman-Marcus level. If it had been built, it would have been a real achievement, one that would have prompted stories and envy across the country. Naturally, my sportswriting colleagues opposed it because they didn’t understand it.

This operation fell apart when Policy got an offer to run the Cleveland Browns, with the sweetener being a substantial amount of stock — which is why Carmen now has a winery in the Napa Valley and lives in the condominium tower next to the Bay Bridge as you enter San Francisco.

At about the same time, Eddie was kicked out of the NFL for his connection to a Louisiana gambling scandal. John York took over as club president.

York would not go forward on any deal with the name of the brother-in-law he hates on it, but he undertook studies of the best place on the point to put a new stadium, without the entertainment and shopping facets of the previous plan. He was told that the best spot to put a new stadium was exactly where the old one is, but when York tried to talk to then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom about it, Newsom wouldn’t take his calls. Newsom has a great interest in sports, as I learned when we had a one-on-one conversation shortly after his inauguration, but he knew he couldn’t make any kind of financial commitment, which York undoubtedly would have sought.

So, the 49ers turned their attention to Santa Clara, where they already had their practice facility. The proposed stadium is in what has been the parking lot across the street.

There was another proposed site, at Hunters Point, but that was always problematical. Access roads would have to be built — the site is further than Candlestick Park from the freeway — and neither the 49ers nor San Francisco wanted to pay for them. A development for the entire Hunters Point-Bayview area, for which Policy has been fronting, included a spot for a stadium, but only because the developer wanted Candlestick Park torn down because that is a good area for retail. Now, it will be gone anyway.

The 49ers haven’t been a San Francisco team for a very long time, with so many longtime fans moving down the Peninsula. Building in Santa Clara is just facing reality. Quit whining, San Franciscans.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on Email him at

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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