Candlestick Park Will Likely Sack the City for Millions

Sports fans have long had a litany of reasons to loathe Candlestick Park. Bad for baseball, merely acceptable for football, the 'Stick is old, cold, shabby, grungy, and isolated. But soon, even the sports-averse San Francisco taxpayer will have an excuse to hate on the 'Stick. If the current labor dispute between the NFL's teams and players results in a lockout and no NFL season this fall — a real possibility — the 'Stick will likely cost San Franciscans money.

In better years, the city cleared between $1.2 and $1.5 million in annual profit on the stadium, according to figures provided by the Recreation and Park Department. But that was before the Monster Park confusion and the naming rights to the 51-year-old concrete edifice expired, and before the 49ers filed a $60 million lawsuit against San Francisco alleging that so much maintenance had been deferred that the city was in violation of its 1969 lease agreement with the team.

Under a compromise deal floated by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in December and approved by Mayor Ed Lee and board president David Chiu earlier this month, the team agreed to drop its lawsuit in return for a settlement package. The city's compromise: a $3 million cash payment up front and reducing the 49ers' rent by nearly $10 million over five years.

Unless ticket revenues increase significantly, the payout will eat up any profit Rec and Park will make on Candlestick this year. Further, the rent cuts throughout the rest of the lease will keep the profit margins thin. Even these depend on 10 football games being played at Candlestick this year. If NFL owners and players can't get along and there's a lockout, the 49ers will pay no rent at all.

Rec and Park can cut some of the $4 million it shells out for Candlestick expenses each NFL season, notably the $700,000 on supplies and $200,000 on turf laying. Other expenses, including $1.6 million in salaries and benefits, will be harder to cut. It's unlikely that the city could find 10 events attracting 60,000 people to replace the 49ers, meaning cutting is the only option.

Candlestick "is a very hard sell," admits Nicholas Kinsey, an assistant director of property and concession management at Rec and Park, which is required to keep the field football-ready until word comes that there's no football to be ready for. Kinsey adds, "We're in a position of tremendous uncertainty right now." That said, it's probably safe to bank that there will be no vigils when the wrecking ball is finally applied to the park sometime after 2020, when Lennar Corporation receives the rights to redevelop Candlestick Point. More likely, there will be a tailgate, with nonfootball fans cheering loudest.

 
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