We’ve seen this movie before

Think about it. Barely over a year from now, a crew will assemble at Candlestick Point and take down the venerable, unlovable, frequently renamed Candlestick Park. Developer Lennar wants the land clear to redevelop as soon as possible, and that means reducing the drafty concrete bowl to dust. The 49ers’ Santa Clara stadium is moving forward by leaps and bounds, setting aside doubts about its readiness for the 2014 NFL season. As with most big demolition jobs, the ‘Stick’s destruction will have a ceremony for 49ers and Giants fans to remember the old stadium. The Giants moved over a decade ago and haven’t looked back, the 49ers appear to be doing the same in moving two counties south.

There’s time for a proper eulogy when the event actually occurs. For now, let’s look at the events that led up to this point.

It’s easy to forget that in 1997, the Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.-led 49ers proposed a new stadium flanked by a shopping mall and a massive garage (9,000+ spaces) at the ‘Stick. It’s all a very 90’s vision, with a large amount of public financing via sales tax increment, a grossly underestimated construction cost ($200 million added within a year), voting irregularities, and a new outlet mall designed to complement existing SF shopping districts such as Union Square. Voters approved the $100 million set aside for the plan, which languished for years as the 90’s dot-com boom went bust and DeBartolo was caught bribing former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards $400,000 for a casino license. (Edwards, who is also infamous for his “live boy, dead girl” quote, has a reality show starting this month featuring him and his new wife, who is 50 years his junior.)

The 49ers' Candlestick replacement-cum-mall plan was oh-so-90's

The 49ers’ Candlestick replacement/mall plan was oh-so-90’s

Even as the plan withered and died when DeBartolo’s less spendthrifty sister and brother-in-law took over the team, the $100 million remained there if someone, anyone was interested in taking over redevelopment of Candlestick Point. So when the team started talking with Santa Clara about building a stadium near the team’s headquarters, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom had the plan dusted off and brought in mega-developer Lennar to give it an update. Lennar moved the stadium site from Candlestick Point to Bayview/Hunters Point, dropped the mall idea, and replaced it with various income-level housing developments and an office park. A carveout for the stadium with a green parking lot was envisioned as a fallback plan just in case Santa Clara fell through. Voters in 2007 (10 years after Eddie D’s plan) approved the Lennar plan. The 49ers remained lukewarm to the stadium because of costs to cleanup contaminated land and the cost of a short bridge to bring vehicular traffic from the Candlestick side to the Bayview. Things only got worse when the stadium was pitched as the anchor for a future Summer Olympics hosting effort, the complexity and uncertainty of the bidding process scaring off the 49ers and the league.

Lennar's Candlestick/Bayview/Hunter's Point redevelopment plan

Lennar’s Candlestick/Bayview/Hunter’s Point redevelopment plan

Newsom tried to “warn Santa Clara” not to tie up public funds on the stadium, while State Senator Carole Migden wrote SB 49, a Hail Mary of a bill designed to prevent teams from moving within 90 miles of their current home (within territory). That bill, like the stadium mall plan, went nowhere, leaving SF with no leverage and a still-uncertain plan to keep the team in town. The 49ers and the NFL went on the offensive in Santa Clara, went door-to-door to sell their stadium, and got voter approval in 2010. Since then it’s been all details such as the EIR process and a couple of NIMBY-related lawsuits, bringing everyone to last year’s groundbreaking ceremony and the impressively fast construction work since then.

A footnote to this story is the presence of one Fred Blackwell. Blackwell served as the SF Redevelopment Agency’s Executive Director from 2007 until 2011, then jumped across the bay to take Oakland’s Assistant City Administrator job (also redevelopment). While Mission Bay had most of SF’s redevelopment focus over the past decade or so, the ongoing state of affairs in the southeast part of the city always made it a target area. Mission Bay was always the one with real economic promise. Still, Blackwell oversaw much of the debate between Lennar, SF’s Board of Supervisors, and community groups all looking out for various interests and generally not getting very far very quickly. Eventually, the project’s EIR totaled 7,700 pages and Lennar shelled out millions to nonprofits in the name of affordable housing and other community benefits.

Blackwell may feel he’s in a similar position to 2007. During last month’s Coliseum Authority meeting, it was revealed that the Raiders and the NFL really just want to focus on a simple stadium, not the broad vision that the City of Oakland is considering. Like the scope creep that helped sink the SF stadium concept, a wide ranging and ultimately very complex redevelopment scheme in East Oakland may make it difficult for the Raiders to commit to staying if the vision remains fuzzy and exponentially more difficult to pull off than a stadium-only plan.

It’s easy to see why the Raiders want to narrow their scope. They’re not making claims of a renaissance in East Oakland. The last thing the team or league wants is to see the stadium jeopardized by a dependency on another component of which it has little or no control.

Getting the two visions (one is effectively a subset of the other) together will not be easy. A look at the pattern of NFL stadium development over the past 20 years shows that few have been part of any kind of urban renewal plan, unlike ballparks or arenas. With the limited number of football games in a season, this makes sense. The notable exception to this rule has been Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, which is not part of any redevelopment scheme, but rather an expansion of an existing convention center footprint. The Atlanta Falcons want to move to a site closer to the Georgia World Congress Center for a similar purpose. In Oakland, the stadium may have a retractable dome, which would inflate its cost significantly but also provide greater flexibility to hold different types of events. Even with ballparks, urban renewal is not a given. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Ballpark Village is finally starting construction nearly a decade after Busch Stadium opened.

Can Blackwell and Oakland pols pull together all of the resources, the financing, and the political will to execute a vision that’s projected to be twice as expensive as the scaled down Lennar-Bayview plan? Not even mighty SF could prevent the 49ers from escaping all of the craziness. It would be hard to blame the Raiders for following a similar, simpler path.

24 thoughts on “We’ve seen this movie before

  1. As someone who was born and raised in San Francisco ( Bayview- Hunters Point) and a current Niner season ticket holder, of course I’ll miss having the team in the city. But I don’t blame the Niners at all for not going along with the Hunters Point stadium plan put forth by the city and moving to Santa Clara. Getting in and out of there would’ve been just as bad as it is now at Candlestick. And as ML stated, that area still needs heavy clean up, 40 years after the Navy moved out. Who knows how long that would’ve taken. I won’t mind making the 40 mile trek to Santa Clara 10 times a year, not a big deal at all. I also think Raider fans should be preparing themselves to make that same trek as well because realistically, I don’t see how a new football stadium in oakland is going to be paid for.

  2. Add city mayor/government pissing off team owners to that list of parallels. Newsome was too egotistical and thought SF vs the South Bay was just posturing by the Niners. Does this sound familiar, JQ?!!!

  3. Hey anon 49ers are the south bay teams now…I think mark davis will pressure Oakland to the point where the city will do another mount Davis deal…either that or I’m done with Oakland…regarding sports at least

    Hey I talked to randy moss the quitter…i knew that guy would help the 49ers lose the superbowl. Hilarious

  4. Not really related to this post, but thought you might get a kick out of this ML. You had posted about the Texans new scoreboard being the biggest in the NFL when it’s installed. Well looks like it won’t get the distinction for long if ever. The Jags are getting an even bigger board (by a VERY large margin).

  5. re: I won’t mind making the 40 mile trek to Santa Clara 10 times a year, not a big deal at all.

    CalTrain can take you to Mountain View, then it’s probably another 20 minutes or so to take VTA Light Rail right to the new stadium. Has to be cheaper than parking. I’ll bet onsite parking will be $40, at least.

  6. It’ll be interesting to see how having better public transit impacts the 49ers. I imagine they can work with Amtrak for East Bay/SJ Valley fans in addition to the peninsula transit options.

  7. Oakland should pay attention to how the San Francisco lost 49ers…u can’t use the broke card or mount davis card. I wish Candlestick mall/stadium had happened though

  8. personally liked the design of the 97 version of new 49ers stadium rather than the one they’re building.

    similar to how i felt the design for cisco field version in fremont is better than what it will look like in sj though the site for sj is a reason why there is a huge difference due to the street beyond rf.

  9. @dan did you watch the press conference at all. It was weird they said they wanted a scoreboard like that. Said how great it would be. It felt like they were about to ask for donations for it. But they never said they actually have plans to get it at this point. Just that it would be great to have.

    They said this is what it would look like if we ever got it.

  10. Funny how teams think fans want to watch all the plays at a stadium on a giant jumbo tron. We can Jerry Jones for this new stadium craze. I am not doing bets on when Oakland will lose all it’s sports teams. I already lost a bet to my uncle about the A’s leaving town by 2014. The price for my lost bet is taking my him to a Cubs/Cards game this year at Wrigley.

  11. Why are big cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco can’t keep their sports teams in town…I think big cities should lose naming rights if they can’t host the team in its actually cities.

  12. Football teams require giant buildings surrounded by Giant parking lots. Not many options for this in major cities – all the land is already used. Of course, the Bears are in downtown Chicago, the Saints downtown New Orleans, so there are a few exceptions.

  13. Mike, makes me wonder where the Niners new screen fits on that chart.

  14. Yeah NFL teams don’t play in those cities because that would be a horribly stupid use of land, as it would be in downtown Oakland as well. We do have plenty of land out in east Oakland that would be perfect for a new NFL stadium though, provided the city isn’t funding it.

  15. @Berry

    Are you kidding me?????? The Patriots do NOT play in Boston, and the Jets/Giants do NOT even play in the same state that they rep – they play in New JERSEY, not New York.

  16. @ berry (continues)

    Reply Fail…hit post before finishing thought process

    Yes, they do NOT play there, but do you think that the business located in Boston and New York wouldnt throw a shit fit if New Jersey were on the helmets?

    Empty threats. The Dallas Cowboys have been in Arlington forever; what the Niners are doing is NOTHING NEW.

  17. Dan, yea I wish the new Niners scoreboard was on the list. So far looking at the construction hard to tell where it would fall.

    Plrraz, When I went to my first Pistons game, it kind of shocked me how long it took to get to the game after passing Detroit. It’s quite awhile away from Detroit.

  18. Pplraz did u do ur homework?….ur grounded young man.

  19. ML, also Kings related, and this is just getting ridiculous. According to Charmichael Dave who has been a pretty reliable source of inside Kings info over the years, the Maloofs also explored Mexico City last year as well. Even going so far as inviting a potential Mexico City ownership group to come to Sacramento to sit courtside before the NBA put the kibosh on the idea. Again while telling Sac they had no interest in moving or selling.

  20. @berry

    East Rutherford is basically NYC in NJ but cheaper. (I stay in East Rutherford when I visit NYC) It was cheaper to build a stadium in NJ than build one in NYC. The Jets actually tried to build a stadium in NYC a few years ago, but greedy activists and a couple of lawsuits prevented the team from building in downtown Manhattan so they had to build a stadium with the Giants. The Pats actually play 22 miles away from greater Boston and have not used the cities name since 1971.

  21. @berry

    Thanks for the compliment (young man), but I am fifty…I am also old enough to remember the absolute HEARTBREAK of losing the Raiders to Los Angeles…I was 18 or 19 years old.

    That you seem to prefer another move to LA as opposed to sharing a stadium 38 miles away is simply astounding. Perhaps YOU should do YOUR homework. LA is a bit further away from the Town than Santa Clara.

  22. When the stadium plans were still set in San Francisco, the new 68,500 seat stadium was to be built at Candlestick Point on land just southeast of Candlestick Park. The cost of the stadium would be $916 million. Lennar Corporation would build housing, retail, and office space around the stadium area.

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