49ers, Santa Clara close to terms

Not to be left behind, the Yorks and Santa Clara are back pumping up the 49ers stadium plan. While the basic structure of the arrangement is the same, the numbers have changed a bit. The vote was to be either binding or advisory based on the availability of a completed EIR. By pushing the referendum back to June 2010, all EIR/CEQA should be completed by then. The projected subsidy, which has been estimated at anywhere from $109 million to $180 million depending on certain options, has now been trimmed to less than $90 million. The total price tag is projected to be $900 million.

Why wouldn’t the 49ers simply foot the bill for the remaining $90 million, since it’s only 10% of the budget? True to form, Jed York says that’s the NFL’s requirement. Ever since the stadium building boom, the NFL has required some level of public investment if the league tapped into its G-3 fund. The league’s rationale is that it’s the way for a municipality to get skin in the game. Even though G-3 is gone, it will be replaced by something else and apparently, similar rules will be applied.

It’s been over 20 years since the last publicly financed, voter approved sports venue in the Bay Area. That venue was San Jose Arena. Since then, all publicly financed stadium initiatives have largely failed. Let’s recap:

  • 1989: San Francisco’s Prop P (China Basin GIants ballpark) lost by 2,000 votes
  • 1990: Santa Clara County Giants ballpark measure (1% utility tax) failed
  • 1992: San Jose Giants ballpark measure (2% utility tax) loses in a landslide
  • 1995: Oakland Coliseum renovation to bring back Raiders – done without a vote, notoriously unsuccessful
  • 1996: Coliseum Arena renovation for Warriors – probably the most successful to date, high costs to operate venue make it less attractive for non-NBA events compared to HP Pavilion
  • 1997: Proposition D passes in SF, providing $100 million towards a new Hunters Point stadium for the 49ers. Development was scaled back, project became stillborn
  • 2001: A’s efforts to work out a publicly-financed ballpark deal in Santa Clara die due to mistrust of team among City Council members

It’s hard to fight that kind of track record, isn’t it? Regardless, the Niners will forge ahead anyway. I’d like to think that the A’s have learned from this, but I wouldn’t put it past them to put out a publicly financed ballpark deal in San Jose. If that happens, I’ll be first in line at the ballot box to vote it down. Given the state of the economy, I’d do the same if I were a Santa Clara resident come June 2010.

Note: I omitted Pac Bell Park because the public money involved went towards infrastructure, not the stadium proper.

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