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49ers' move may cost them their name, logo and identity


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Migden suits up to block 49ers' move

By Daniel Macht

 

Better put on a helmet and some pads: It's Migden vs. Alquist over the fate of the San Francisco 49ers--and you can follow the Capitol play-by-play without a season ticket.

 

The Niners' season is over but their fight for a new stadium is just heating up. With the team's dream to open a new stadium by 2012, the battle between those trying keep them in San Francisco and those who would lure the team to neighboring Santa Clara has now moved beyond the Bay Area and into the state Capitol and the U.S. Senate. And San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who wants to keep the team, has proposed a new option: a stadium in Hunters Point--if his Candlestick Point proposal falls through.

 

Senator Carole Migden's aptly numbered SB 49 is likely to be introduced within the next week. She says it would prohibit any city or local entity from using "tax breaks and land giveaways" to steal an NFL team from a neighboring community.

 

In Washington, D.C., U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein will be introducing legislation later this month that would require the 49ers to get permission from San Francisco to retain their name if they moved to Santa Clara.

 

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, considered drafting a bill to give San Francisco a measure of control over the team's name, but then he discovered that the NFL owns the trademark, he said.

 

For their part, the 49ers have retained the services of veteran Sacramento lobbyist Kevin Sloat and his firm to fight Senator Migden's legislation, said team spokeswoman Lisa Lang.

 

And while Lang said that staying in San Francisco is their priority, Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan expects the Niners to present a formal relocation proposal when they go before the Santa Clara City Council on Tuesday.

 

January is shaping up, therefore, as an important month for the future of the Niners, since owners Denise and Dr. John York last posted a letter on the Niners' Web site nearly two months ago that rocked the team's fans.

In their letter, the Yorks--who are no relation to the York family that publishes Capitol Weekly--notified fans that they had decided against moving forward on plans for a stadium and mixed-use development at Candlestick Point. Instead, they said they were shifting their focus to Santa Clara, where Niners' headquarters and the team's practice facility are based.

 

The Yorks' letter cited "massive infrastructure and public-transit needs," and bemoaned construction of "one of the largest parking garages in the world" that stymied tailgate parties, plus a time-consuming public-approval process at Candlestick Point.

 

Senator Migden's bill is modeled after past anti-big-box legislation that has prevented sales-tax hungry cities from offering financial incentives to stores and auto dealerships in neighboring towns. "A professional football stadium is a huge real-estate development. It is costly and complicated," said Hallye Jordan, press director for Sen. Migden. "The senator's intent ? is to prevent communities from launching bidding wars that waste taxpayer dollars without providing financial benefit to any community in that market area."

 

"We've not seen the legislation, but from what we can surmise ? she wants to draw a 100-mile circle on San Francisco to designate a 'no-49er' stadium zone," said Lang.

 

Mahan said that even if SB 49 passes, she doubts that it would stop the Yorks from considering Santa Clara. "We're not interested in public financing. ? We wouldn't be involved in giving land," she said

 

The stadium is likely to take shape near the Santa Clara Convention Center on part of the parking lot of Paramount's Great America theme park has reserved for its busiest days. Mahan believes that the site is superior to Candlestick Point because it is served by two freeways, is a public-transportation hub and has plenty of parking spaces for fans. While the city owns the land, the Niners would have to negotiate their lease with the current tenant.

 

The important point is to "keep the 49ers in the Bay Area," said Mahan. Senator Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, said that she "sees no need for a legislative fight," but that she will oppose SB 49.

 

"This is a private business and, ultimately, the Yorks are going to do what is in the best interest of the 49ers," Alquist said. "I have talked with Jed York, the son, and said that I'll do everything in my power to facilitate the move, if that is what they want."

 

San Francisco supervisor Bevan Dufty is still hopeful that Newsom can take the lead to broker a deal that keeps the Niners in the city. "There could be a plan that doesn't necessitate an $800 million [price tag] ? and has less infrastructure costs," Dufty said. As for the team's likely Santa Clara relocation proposal, Dufty said "the devil is in the details. I believe that as Santa Clara gets real with the proposal, they are going to run into the same obstacles that any city will when trying to fund a stadium."

 

If the Niners were to relocate, and Senator Feinstein's bill passed, the cost of the move could be the team's name and logo. In a speech before the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 14, Senator Feinstein said, "The 49er is the tradition of the city. San Francisco is the city of the Gold Rush. ? You can't move to Santa Clara and call yourself a 49er--you're not. And you certainly can't call yourself the San Francisco 49ers--you're not."

 

But Alquist wonders, what's in a name?

 

"The New York Giants and Jets are both based in New Jersey. The Buffalo Bills don't play in Buffalo. The Cowboys don't play in Dallas."

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