As I pointed to in the Morning Huddle earlier today, Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News reports that Santa Clara County has rather suddenly pulled $30 million from the stadium project that will ultimately provide the 49ers a much needed new home. With a large sum of money now needed to finance the project, where does that leave the 49ers?
I've mentioned from time to time that the potential of a team moving to Los Angeles gives that team bargaining leverage when they're looking to either build a new stadium or renovate their current home. That's great for the teams that are able to use such leverage (i.e. Minnesota), but it doesn't apply to the 49ers. There's virtually no risk, at this time, of them packing up and moving, and the county of Santa Clara knows that.
Another potential aspect of this withdrawal by the county is that it could bring the Oakland Raiders back into play. The Raiders, much like the 49ers, are in dire need of a better facility, and the new stadium could be home to both teams much like the New Meadowlands Stadium. The problem with this idea is that the Raiders are a team that is believed would be willing to move. With a brand new stadium that they could play in all by themselves, I don't see the Raiders wanting to move in with the 49ers.
As I like to preach, negotiations come down to leverage, and in this case, the county of Santa Clara has more leverage than the 49ers. The team can't simply pack up and move to Southern California, and the project has cleared virtually all the hurdles required to get the green light. The county understands that the league and the team will most likely be willing to kick in the extra money. The set back leads to some early friction, but ten years from now, no one will remember the $30 million that was pulled by the county.
You can call the move playing dirty on the part of the county, or you can call it just playing the game. There's still the possibility that political pressure from politicians, the NFL, and the 49ers could convince the county to kick the $30 million in question back into the pool, but if not, I don't see the project being derailed by the move. Santa Clara county is playing a tricky game, but it may well save them $30 million, and the taxpayers can't be too upset about that.
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