Big plans live and die in L.A.
The San Francisco 49ers say they’re moving to Santa Clara and by 2012 will make the platinum upgrade from the NFL’s worst stadium to its best. All on their dime.
Well, something doesn’t add up.
Just two weeks ago, team owners were told the cost of a stadium in the Los Angeles area could top $1 billion, and that’s if construction were to start right away.
So how are the 49ers going to bankroll their own venue -- with accompanying commercial complex -- and stay in business? It’s not as if things are any cheaper in the Bay Area than they are in Southern California. Maybe those folks on the Coliseum Commission who said that $1-billion estimate was wildly inflated weren’t far off base.
“Maybe in the mind of the NFL that’s what it takes to build perfect,” said Bill Chadwick, a state appointee to the commission. “I’m not sure that the market demands perfect.”
Maybe the 49ers have cracked the code, figured out a way to justify the astronomical expense of building their own digs.
“What the fans don’t care about is the financing,” owner John York told reporters while offering nary a hint about how the franchise will pick up the tab. (For the record, he was quick to say the 49ers will neither move to L.A., nor drop San Francisco from their name.)
Regardless, it doesn’t look as if L.A. is any closer to filling its NFL vacancy. The league had to take notice of the resounding rejection it got this week from Pasadena voters.
The people of Pasadena have spoken, and the message to the league couldn’t be more clear: Go away! Residents swatted away an initiative to restart Rose Bowl talks with the league by nearly a 3-to-1 ratio. Seventy-two percent of voters gave Measure A a thumbs down -- and that was with no public money at stake.
Few people expected such a lopsided defeat for the league. Consider this: When Wal-Mart lost its campaign to ram through a giant “super-center” in Inglewood, its plan was crushed 60.6% to 39.3%. That’s a photo finish compared to the Pasadena vote.
“It was such a major trounce,” said Carolyn Naber, president of Pasadena First, a broad coalition of residents who oppose putting an NFL team in the Rose Bowl. “So many times people tried to paint this as an issue of neighbors who live near the stadium. Yet when you have this kind of landslide, it shows that this was a citywide ‘no’ to the NFL in the Rose Bowl.
“It’s put to bed.”
In the latest generation of proposals, the NFL was eyeing stadium concepts in Pasadena, Carson and Anaheim and at the Coliseum. Anaheim, Carson and Pasadena have moved on, and the Coliseum is heading that way. After thousands of hours and millions of dollars spent, the league is back to square one.
This much is obvious: the NFL’s latest model doesn’t work. The notion of it controlling the process by selecting the site, then identifying the team and ownership components hasn’t panned out. That assumes the existing 32 owners are willing to ante up for an L.A. stadium, and they aren’t.
In the next go-round, it could be back to an individual stadium or wannabe ownership group trying to woo an existing team that’s scanning the horizon for a sweeter deal.
And those teams will crop up. Brace yourself to hear about the usual relocation suspects in the coming months and years. Despite York’s adamant assurances that the 49ers will stay in the Bay Area, they are likely to surface as a potential L.A. team.
David Israel, another Coliseum commissioner, thinks the scenario that makes the most sense is the Jacksonville Jaguars relocating to L.A.
“They have to cover 9,700 seats a game just to avoid blackouts,” he said. “There’s no prospect of growth in Jacksonville that’s going to change that.... Having a team in Jacksonville and no team in L.A. is a joke.”
Hey, maybe the Jaguars wouldn’t even have to pay moving expenses. They could just hitch a ride with the Chargers, Vikings, Bills, Saints and every other NFL franchise supposedly due to arrive any day now.