Santa Clara voters yesterday, which I am sad I was not a part of, may have transformed the Bay Area pro sports landscape, approving a $937 million stadium deal that would bring the San Francisco 49ers to Silicon Valley. But the 49ers’ big win at the ballot box may not be the end of the game. Now the team must secure hundreds of millions of dollars in financing in tight economic times to ensure it can break ground in two years on a new home next to the Great America theme park. But Measure J has long been considered the critical hurdle in the team’s quest to replace Candlestick Park, one of the NFL’s most outdated stadiums.
“It makes it a lot easier to get a stadium built in Northern California,” said 49ers President Jed York, who gathered with jubilant campaign workers at the American Legion hall in Santa Clara to await the election returns. “It’s now full go-ahead in Santa Clara.”
By an overwhelming margin, the city’s voters cast their ballots for Measure J, which calls for construction of a 68,500-seat stadium projected to open for the 2014 football season. Santa Clara residents apparently shrugged off worries that the deal could expose the city to financial risk in the future, as well as any reservations about a package of $114 million in public contributions to help pay for the pricey project, including $42 million in redevelopment money and a special new tax on guests who stay in eight city hotels. At the same time, the strong support demonstrated that the 49ers’ no-holds-barred, multimillion-dollar political campaign paid dividends. While supporters touted the prestige of landing a legendary franchise and the promise of hosting Super Bowls, opponents warned of roaring crowds, traffic backups and parking headaches.
Foes of the stadium measure, meanwhile, gathered in the Santa Clara home of Chris Koltermann, a leading stadium critic. Santa Clara Plays Fair, the leading opposition group, conducted a spartan campaign to derail the stadium project, unable to counteract the millions of dollars the 49ers spent on television and radio advertising. Stadium critics’ best ammunition came from Jamie McLeod and Will Kennedy, the only two City Council members opposed to the project. Kennedy said Tuesday night that he would abide by the city’s voters, refusing to express much disappointment in the outcome. “It’s the people’s city,” Kennedy said. “The people made the decision.”