It is safe to say that there are a lot of questions surrounding the San Francisco 49ers as they approach the start of the 2010 season.
Some possibilities are fun to wonder about.
Can they improve on their 8-8 record from 2009? Will they win the NFC West? Who will be under center for Week One – Smith, Carr, . . . McNabb? Can Vernon Davis build on his 2009 Pro Bowl-worthy season performance?
On the other hand, some questions are causing significantly more angst in the land of 49er Faithful.
Who will replace GM Scott McCloughan in the long term? What will the draft look like without an acting GM? Can Jed York steer the team through this seemingly tumultuous stretch (at least tumultuous as far as the local media would have you believe)? Should the 49ers FAIL to reach the playoffs again in 2010, what will happen next offseason?
Like the rest of the NFL, the 49ers are also left wonder what life in the NFL will look like beyond the reach of the 2010 season.
With no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place between the league and the NFLPA beyond this coming season, speculation is rampant about whether the 2011 season will be truncated, played with substitute personnel, or played at all.
The league has not faced such a specter since 1987 (though only one game was lost that year as opposed to seven in 1982).
There is also one more question facing the 49ers.
When and where will they be granted the new stadium they unquestionably deserve and dearly need? This quandary is unique among the rest in that the fans can do something about resolving it.
The citizens of Santa Clara, CA can bring an end to years of speculation on possible construction sites and threats of relocation when they head to the ballots this June.
Santa Clara has added a city initiative, Measure J (I will assume the “J” is in honor of Joe Montana), to this June’s local ballot in an attempt to garner public approval on the construction of a state-of-the-art, $927 million, green-focused stadium.
The term sheet has already been approved by the Santa Clara City Council and the ballot measure seems to be the last necessary hurdle to clear before construction can proceed.
With a “Yes” vote in hand, the 49ers seem all but guaranteed of kicking off the 2014 season in their swanky new South Bay digs.
An objective review of the facts about the stadium project make it a virtual no-brainer “Yes” vote.
The City of Santa Clara is guaranteed a minimal $79 million investment, to be paid from a special pool of money that is separate from the general fund and already allocated for specific investment purposes such as large-scale construction.
All additional money will come from the 49ers and the NFL. The 49ers have also guaranteed to cover all project cost overruns.
The city’s investment will require no new city taxes beyond hotel taxes (not a burden on the citizens of Santa Clara), despite rumors to the contrary from opponents of the project.
For their paltry investment, the city will be guaranteed $40 million in rent revenues, and is projected to receive $155 million in performance rent, based on the revenues the new stadium generates.
The project is also expected to generate 1,300 jobs during construction and create 2,200 permanent jobs thereafter. This would be a boon not only to Santa Clara but the Bay Area in general and possibly even the state at large.
Having a world-class facility of this caliber in the Bay Area would also generate untold amounts of business revenue from outside traffic and visitors to the region.
There is also the possible benefit that having such a venue in Santa Clara might finally convince the BART system (San Francisco Bay Area’s rapid transit rail system) that it is time to expand service all the way to San Jose, with a stop near the new stadium site.
With the stadium not set to open until 2014, the projects could proceed in parallel, providing alternate transit to the new stadium from game one (invalidating one of the main arguments behind one of the other popular stadium proposals). This would also be huge boon to the entire Bay Area, both during and after construction.
Opponents of the idea do not like to focus on facts, but prefer rumors and emotional appeals. Most opponents do not want to see the 49ers leave the city limits of San Francisco, but say “If they’re going to leave, they might as well go share a stadium with the Raiders.”
This preposterous notion, popularized by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, is a pathetic alternative to the Santa Clara idea.
Supporters of the shared stadium claim that the current site of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is ideal due to its proximity to freeways and BART and its central location to virtually all Bay Area locales.
As I already explained, BART could easily be expanded to San Jose (an idea which is not a new notion by any means) in time for the Santa Clara stadium to open, spawning a huge public works project to boost a fledgling economy.
The proposed Santa Clara site also sits at the confluence of three major Bay Area freeways: I-880, US-101, and CA-237, which connects on to I-280.
Beyond such logical arguments, the 49ers frankly deserve better than the fate of sharing a stadium with the Raiders and their fans.
From a sports standpoint, the Santa Clara project makes equal sense. It would allow the 49ers to continue to grow their brand and expand their fan base, while still providing fans within San Francisco easy access to games (provided BART did expand, though CalTrain and local systems could provide reasonable access as well).
A stadium in Santa Clara would co-locate it with the long-time (1987-present) home of the 49ers training and headquarter location at the Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Complex. It also stands as one of the last remaining viable pieces of land for such a development within the Bay Area.
It may be unsavory to think of the 49ers outside of San Francisco. However, if the Santa Clara initiative fails, it may not be a stretch to be facing the specter of seeing the 49ers leave the Bay Area completely. That is an unacceptable outcome.
With so many questions already facing the 49ers, why add on the anxiety of possibly losing the team?
If you live in Santa Clara, or know someone who does, vote YES or encourage them to vote YES on Measure J in June. When you do the research, it makes sense for Santa Clara, it makes sense for the Bay Area, it makes sense for the 49ers, and it makes sense for the NFL.
Keep the faith!