Niners and Raiders sittin’ in a tree

Could it be a marriage made in heaven? Or at least Santa Clara?

Matier and Ross revealed in this morning’s column that 49er officials met with their Raider counterparts “in a casual setting in the latter half of the football season about the possibility of teaming up.” Later in the afternoon, the 49ers issued a release denying such talks occurred. The idea of the two NFL franchises sharing a stadium has been floated here and elsewhere. Is it feasible?

The concept (if not the location) may be the most feasible for this area. The NYC market can only get one stadium built for its two megabucks teams. Despite decades of fierce loyalty, the Redskins’ FedEx Field was privately built, while built-up longing and disappointment helped broker a sweetheart deal for the Ravens. We know that public money is scarce at best for the 49ers and Raiders, as is land. So the better question may be:

Why are they pursuing separate venues?

Just as with the A’s situation, I’m not terribly particular about the eventual location of a stadium. The 49ers have been pumping up the Great America site, which sounds good on paper. It has transit links, plenty of parking nearby, and some land nearby which could be leveraged for development-based financing. Yet the 49ers’ apparent overtures towards the Raiders indicates that the financing part is far from complete. I’ve expressed my doubts about how the team is going to pay for this.

From a practical standpoint, sharing a venue makes a lot of sense.

  • The two teams will play 20-24 games total per year including playoffs.
  • The exposure that having two teams will bring to the venue makes naming rights much more attractive for potential bidders – perhaps twice as lucrative.
  • Having a single venue means that the two teams won’t be competing for a Super Bowl bid. They can throw their resources into co-hosting the bid, collectively getting better chances in the process even for repeat hostings.
  • The host city will be that much more interested in “helping” because of the promise of twice as many NFL dates.
  • Success with the venue would cascade down to the possibility of a high profile bowl game (yes I’m pointing at you, Emerald Bowl).

Of course, pragmatism often doesn’t rule such proceedings. Greed does. Still, this is a positive step that shows that 49ers management may have a better read on the market than most of the public gives them credit for. As for the Raiders, they understand that compared to a decade ago, they are in a position of weakness on and off the field. They’re now beggars, not choosers, so a lack of options could very well drive them towards this kind of deal. Will the fans of the respective teams stand for it? Sounds like a tougher bargain to me.

BTW – I know I’m going to get asked this – I’d prefer Treasure Island even though it’s a logistical nightmare (BART station at Yerba Buena Island included). Then one of the cities – take your pick.

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