By Tim Hunt
Farewell to CandlestickUploaded: Dec 19, 2013
Long-suffering 49er fans will celebrate a milestone Monday evening when San Francisco plays its final home game at Candlestick Park. The "Stick" has been the 49ers' home since 1971 and fans have seen more than their fair share of memorable moments.
One person who will be particularly happy to see the Candlestick era end is San Francisco 49ers President Jed York. York was in the East Bay last month to speak to the Catholics@work organization at an early breakfast at Crow Canyon Country Club.
To say that he is excited about Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara would be a pure understatement.
After having dealt with Candlestick Park and its miserable freeway access since he arrived in San Francisco as team president, he can rattle off the advantages of the new Santa Clara location. It has 13 freeway interchanges within four miles (Candlestick has two to Highway 101). It also offers light rail connections throughout Silicon Valley, plus a CalTrain or ACE connection to the Central Valley.
That's important because there are as many season ticket holders in Sacramento as there are in San Francisco County. The bulk of the fan base (two-thirds) is on the peninsula and in the South Bay, while East Bay season ticket holders out-number those in San Francisco 3-1.
The organization gave San Francisco way too much time to get a new stadium project underway and nothing happened after 15 years. Among the concepts was a stadium and a shopping mall—just how does that work on Sundays, Jed asked?
Once Santa Clara and the 49ers got serious, the project moved—although it still took a public votes and settling legal action before construction began.
Despite the excellent freeway access to Highway 237 that connects I-880 and 101, the 49ers will not host a Monday night or Thursday night game in 2014 until the team and the league sees how the transportation works around the ball park. Highway 237 is a remarkably busy artery for the Silicon Valley.
Incidentally, drawing upon his stadium experience, York said that the Warriors were in for a real challenge to get the approvals and then build their planned waterfront arena in San Francisco.
"It will be tough to get it done, but the Bay Area really needs a top-notch arena," he said.
The key to the 49ers turn-around on the field was York's recruiting Coach Jim Harbaugh from Stanford (following in the steps of the legendary Bill Walsh). When the 49ers were pursuing Harbaugh, he also was being courted by his alma mater, Michigan, as well as the Miami Dolphins. The key factor, according to York, if Harbaugh went anywhere but to the 49ers, the family would have to move—not something that was high on his wife's wish list. So, York did not enter a bidding war, he simply pointed out the advantages of the 49ers talent and no more.
As team president, York is the youngest owner in the NFL. He said he often is regarded as "just a kid" and he takes full advantage of that in the process. He said his parents knew they wanted him to run the team and took the criticism while his father, John, was the face of the organization so they could give him time to get ready. He readily taps his Uncle Eddie DeBartolo for advice—Uncle Eddie was the owner when the 49ers won their five Super Bowls.
As a young owner, in contrast to Daniel Snyder of the Washington Redskins, he deliberately avoids becoming personally involved with players. "I do not want to cross that line. I have 32 contemporaries (as owner) and I need to set the example."
Where he and the organization do help the players is with financial planning. The league offers a very generous 401K program with a 2-1 match. Invest one dollar—get two. It's a no-brainer that many players, prior to Jed, were ignoring. After some education, 100 percent of the players participate—doubling your dollars always works.