You have to hand it to Roger Goodell. He has a playbook for getting stadium deals moving, and by God it works. Goodell lets the team owner come up with a proposal, and if it stalls he comes in with Goldman Sachs in tow and/or a threat to move, implied or otherwise. As a result, Santa Clara put up $900 million in public loans and cash for the 49ers stadium project, while the Vikings – after much debate – are getting a deal crafted in the Minnesota legislature that could provide up to $800 million in public assistance for stay home.
In the Vikings’ case, all it required was a little open-ended discussion about Los Angeles and a sighting of owner Zygi Wilf’s private jet in SoCal. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has become the Oscar Goodman of football, an outsider but serious power player whose city’s existential threat to other cities forces them to the table. The Vikings deal is by no means complete, but it’s further along than any talks to date, so that has to be encouraging for both Vikes fans and Wilf.
On Thursday, the 49ers officially broke ground on their new home as of the 2014 season. The stadium will undoubtedly be impressive and significantly better than Candlestick Park in just about every way imaginable, except affordability. (I thought I was going to get some pictures of the event but that fell through, sorry.) Now we can talk in earnest about the Bay Area hosting a future Super Bowl or World Cup matches. It’s pretty exciting, despite my misgivings about the finances.
And it’s with that news that I can sit back, somewhat detached from the plan and say that I’m jealous of the 49ers right now. I don’t want a major handout for the A’s or Goldman Sachs waiting in the wings. I don’t need a stadium that costs more than a billion dollars. I just want a new place where I can take friends, where it doesn’t feel like pulling teeth to ask them if they want to go. A place that celebrates baseball, not merely hosts it at best adequately. Despite what some readers think, I don’t care where it’s built. If that’s Oakland, great. If it’s San Jose, so be it. Even Sacramento I wouldn’t mind so much at this point. My stance has always remained steady all this time – as long as it’s privately financed and I can get to it locally, I’m all for it. On this blog and elsewhere we have these endless debates about what it will take, territorial rights, what resources specific cities can offer, and there will be plenty of time for that later. For now let’s simply look at the leagues.
Mostly, I’m jealous that the NFL can get its stuff together on stadia so much better than MLB. It doesn’t matter that on the whole NFL stadia cost twice as much. The projects should be far riskier because of the expense and the inherent lack of utilization. In the post-downturn, post-redevelopment California, the toughest market to build anything new, the NFL will have beaten MLB by at least two years, maybe more. In the time that Bud Selig has had his panel discussing what to do about the A’s, we could’ve had a fancy (or not) groundbreaking. We could be talking about the future. Instead, we’re treading water as usual. No one can tread water forever.