49ers’ stadium campaign trail makes stop in MH


Team president Jed York spoke at a Rotary Club meeting Wednesday
in Morgan Hill.
MORGAN HILL – Wednesday’s Rotary Club meeting started off like any other. Morgan Hill chapter members and guests recited the Pledge of Allegiance, ate lunch, celebrated January birthdays and recognized the newest Rotarians.

Then the crowd of roughly 140 welcomed the president of the San Francisco 49ers.

Jed York, looking as dapper and 28 as ever, stopped by the Community and Cultural Center to talk about his family’s storied history in sports, address the state of his franchise and stump for the building of a new football stadium in Santa Clara, which has nothing and everything to do with Niners faithful in surrounding cities.

Santa Clara residents alone will vote on the construction of the proposed $940 million facility in June, and, though York is confident a new stadium will be ready for the 2014 season, he wants every San Francisco fan in the Bay Area and South County to lend their endorsement.

“We need overall support from the entire region,” he said. “How can you help us win this election? Send in letters to the City of Santa Clara. Send letters to their political leaders. Write letters to the editor of the San Jose Mercury News and talk to them about what you see as a south Bay Area native and season-ticket holder; that you want to see your team play in Santa Clara.”

York had planned to be the guest speaker at a Morgan Hill Rotary Club meeting for some time. While attending the University of Notre Dame, he became close friends with Tom McCinty, son of Morgan Hill Rotarian Kevin McCinty.

The 49ers ended their season Sunday with a 28-6 road win over St. Louis. York used his team’s 8-8 finish as a launchpad for questions from the audience.

“I’m more interested in hearing your questions than talking about myself,” he said.

“We look at 8-8; talking to Scott McCloughan, our general manager, talking to Mike Singletary, our coach, yes it’s the best we’ve done since ’02, but this is not what we expect. This isn’t good enough for us; this isn’t good enough for the San Francisco 49ers. Nobody’s happy in our building.”

York quickly noted that 8-8 “doesn’t mean you fire everybody and make wholesale changes.” He liked the progression of some of his offensive play-makers, such as All-Pro running back Frank Gore, quarterback Alex Smith, tight end Vernon Davis and rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and the improvement of linebacker Ahmad Brooks.

Davis tied the single-season all-league record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with 13 this season.

“Vernon, you could say he reached his potential, but we’ve seen what he can do in practice … and I still don’t think he’s where he ultimately will be,” York said. “Then, someone like Crabtree; he missed so much time. … To do what he did [48 catches for 625 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games] is very impressive.”

Not speaking for Singletary, York said the 49ers will look to add an offensive tackle, a pass-rusher and a cornerback in the upcoming NFL draft, but won’t make selections based on needs.

“You can’t push somebody up there because you need that position,” he said. “When you do that, you end up drafting guys that make you say, ‘You know what, maybe we should have waited until the second or third round for somebody like that.'”

York and his associates plan to spend the next few months campaigning for a new stadium.

“Our focus is to talk to people and make sure we have a positive vote. We feel comfortable we can get this done,” he said. “Hopefully, sometime before now and 2014, we add another Super Bowl or two.”

Next to winning their first world championship since 1995, finding a new home has been near the top of the 49ers’ list of priorities for more than a decade. Past owners – York’s uncle, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and parents John and Denise – sought to construct new developments that would generate funds for building a stadium in Candlestick Point, site of the team’s current home venue, Candlestick Park.

But the infrastructure never made sense, leading the franchise to broaden its scope to about 90 places. In November 2006, the team announced its plan to build a state-of-the-art facility three blocks away from 49ers headquarters, near the spacious parking lots surrounding California’s Great America theme park. The plan also included housing, retail and office space, which, along with $109 million from the city’s redevelopment fund, will help pay for the construction.

“When you look at that, $109 million is a significant number,” York said. “But it certainly is not a large number in terms of percentages of a $940 million project.”

York mentioned the $500 million in public funds that went toward the cost of building Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, a $650 million dome that opened in 2008.

“I don’t think that’s going to fly anywhere in California,” he said.

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