I am a huge football fan and love my San Francisco 49ers. I’m what you call a “Forty Niner Faithful”. Through thick and thin, I love the dudes wearing the red and gold. Yesterday, the City of Santa Clara approved Measure J by an overwhelming margin. Measure J authorizes leasing of city owned property to allow construction of a $937 million 68,500 seat professional football stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. If all goes as planned, the stadium would be completed by 2014. I believe the economic benefits to my city will be enormous from this project. I further believe everything from schools to city services will improve. However, I am not an economist, I am a football fan and know that my favorite football team will soon be taking snaps 41 miles closer to my back yard.
Today, the current home of the 49ers, Candlestick Park, is a dump. Completed in 1960 to serve as the new home of the newly acquired San Francisco Giants, it represents one of the oldest sports facilities in the country and lacks the prestige of other historic venues like Wrigley Field in Chicago or Fenway Park in Boston. The 49ers became joint tenants with the Giants in 1971 and seating sections were added to accommodate more fans. Over the years, however, very few improvements have been made. Notable moments were withstanding the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake during Game 3 of the World Series between the Giants and Oakland Athletics and hosting the 1984 Baseball All Star Game. But for any true 49er fan, the greatest moment came on January 10, 1982 during the 4th quarter of the NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys when Joe Montana connected with Dwight Clark for a game winning touchdown. This completed pass became known as “The Catch” and today is one of the most recognizable football images in the history of the National Football League.
The last time I attended a 49er game with my family it was shocking to see the ruin and decay of this stadium. We sat in gridlock traffic for over 45 minutes, then entered the “parking lot”. After paying an attendant $30, I attempted to park my car in a dust bowl. Tumbleweeds bounced off the hood of my car as I pulled into the dirt “parking slot”. The stadium floor sits slightly below sea level so when the rains come, the parking lot becomes a lake disabling hundreds of parking slots. The field drainage is just as bad on game days. It is quite a scene. Recently, a major paint job was completed to coat the rusted steel and freshen up the color schemes. As they say, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig. Candlestick Park must be a laughing-stock to visiting teams who occupy the visiting locker room and whose football homes are more respectable and modern. Football is a business. Teams with newer stadiums have superior market value and are loyal to the cities they play in. If someone else helped you build a new house, would you leave?
Sweet memories of Candlestick? You betcha. I’ll never forget the final Giants home game on September 30, 1999. I went with my Dad because we wanted to witness history. We did. The parade of past Giants players. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Dave Dravecky (his pitching arm amputated from a battle with cancer). I cried it was so awesome. Seeing a California Highway Patrol helicopter land in center field and transport home plate to the Giants new home at AT&T Park. Watching the flight on the Jumbotron. It was insane. I have great memories spending quality time with my Dad and sharing a love of baseball with him. The night games freezing my butt off. Watching the swirling garbage tornadoes on the field with debris sticking to players. The fog rolling in during night games and the sound of the fog horn over the PA system. Watching my Dad pridefully shove another Croix de Candlestick pin (earned for surviving cold night games in extra innings) into his worn Giants cap. There are tons more, but it’s time to look to the future. Time to light a candle for old Candlestick, honor the sweet memories and move on. Goodbye old friend.
More information on the new stadium can be found here.