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EXHALE -- 49ERS NOT CONSIDERING MOVE TO L.A.

Byline: BILLY WITZ NFL

As San Francisco 49ers owner John York stood at a podium Thursday, with questions about the team's future in the city being fired at him left and right, he summoned all the earnestness a man could muster and declared, ``We have never considered L.A. These are the San Francisco 49ers.''

And with that, an entire metropolis exhaled.

No, not the Bay Area. Rather, Los Angeles.

It's been so long since the NFL left town -- anniversary No. 12 is around the bend -- that it's hard to remember sometimes what it was like under the reign (or was it the thumb) of Al Davis and Georgia Frontiere.

So when York announced that his team would move from SanFrancisco about 30 miles south to Santa Clara, all the while not really having a plan how to do it, it was a vicarious reminder of what it used to be like around these parts.

When Georgia inherited the team from her late husband, Carroll Rosenbloom, she ran the Rams into the ground much the way York did when he inherited the team after his brother-in-law, Eddie DeBartolo, was sent up the pike.

Same carousel of coaches, same litany of bad draft choices, and -- lest anyone forget the Cheap Sheep -- the same penurious ways.

And how easy was it, when York stunned San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom with a phone call to say he was cutting off talks on a stadium development at Candlestick Point -- torpedoing the city's bid for the 2016 Olympics with it -- to conjure up visions of the Raiders' dances with Irwindale, Oakland, Hollywood Park and anyone else who dangled a few dollars from their cleavage.

The 49ers have been at this stadium deal for nine years now. And back in 1999, they actually had a bond measure passed that would have given them $100 million of public funds to put toward it.

Since then, cost estimates for stadiums have more than doubled, and while York has sat around trying to figure out how to spend other people's money, the climate has also turned chilly.

That point was driven home Tuesday around the nation.

In Seattle, voters approved a ballot measure restricting public financing for a new arena for the Sonics. In Sacramento, voters shot down a pair of initiatives that would have raised taxes to help finance a new arena for the Kings. And in Pasadena, voters turned away a mandate for the city to re-enter negotiations with the NFL for a renovation of the Rose Bowl.

The victors on those measures each received at least 70 percent of the vote.

``The politics of stadiums has turned south,'' said Roger Noll, a Stanford economics professor who has written extensively on the business of sports.

Yet, as Noll points out, this isn't voters simply turning away from taxes. In Kansas City, they rejected a measure for a soccer park but approved a light rail system and stem-cell research. In California, voters agreed to borrow $42.7 billion in bonds to fund roads, parks, schools and housing.

``Across the country, people seem willing to spend more money on the public sector,'' Noll said. ``But the priorities are infrastructure and education.''

That's why San Francisco isn't the only city in the state where you don't see politicians emptying their pockets to come up with money for a new stadium.

The Chargers haven't gotten any traction in San Diego, Oakland just shrugged its shoulders this week when the A's announced plans to build a stadium 25 miles away in Fremont, and then there is the litany of locales around here -- Carson, Anaheim, Pasadena and Los Angeles -- whose best offer is to check under the sofa cushions for loose change.

Baseball teams have given up. The A's are now planning to follow the lead of the Giants and Padres, who have built largely privately funded -- and largely successful -- new stadiums.

But for NFL teams to do this it is more complicated.

The NFL's revenue sharing system, which splits billions in TV revenue evenly amongst the 32 teams, has allowed teams to survive and thrive in places like Green Bay and Buffalo. But it also allows teams to pick up and move to places like Green Bay and Buffalo -- say Jacksonville and Nashville -- without impunity.

Either way, they get the TV check.

Another problem is that football stadiums, much bigger and used less frequently than baseball stadiums, are much more expensive.

``The gap between what a team can pay and what a stadium costs is far greater for football, and much greater than a company might be willing to pay for naming rights,'' Noll said. ``Thus, I do not expect many, if any NFL teams to get new stadiums in the intermediate future.''

And if that's the case, who wants to be Santa Clara when you can be Santa Clarita?

billy.witz@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3621
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 10, 2006
Words:814
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