I thought about writing some kind of year-end list for this site, but got stuck on whether the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel or the Buffalo News should win Best Performance As A Team PR Department By An Allegedly Major Newspaper, and never got around to writing the rest. Newballpark.org had no such problems, though, and devotes an entire post today to all the ways in which the San Francisco 49ers‘ new stadium was a disappointment: the sod had to be replaced five separate times, it was crazy hot in the sun during the early season, and attendance for college games was pretty lousy. The 49ers kinda sucked. And, though the site doesn’t mention this bit, the traffic was terrible, at least in the early going.
All this is fun to point and laugh at, but I’m not sure that Newballpark’s proposed solution (the 49ers should have built a roof on the stadium) makes all that much sense: Yeah, it would have kept fans from collapsing from the heat, but you can put in a fake turf field if you want for a hell of a lot less than the couple hundred million dollars it would have taken to add a roof, retractable or not. And as for the 49ers’ on-field fortunes taking a nosedive, you could make the case that this actually happened at the perfect time for the 49ers: All their crazy-high-priced PSLs have already sold, so the team owners have guaranteed that they can pay off their building, regardless of whether those PSLs are worth much going forward. Yes, it would be nice to keep people actually going to games and buying $6 bags of M&Ms, but if the choice is between people being disappointed in the product after they’ve paid for it or beforehand, I’d guess that the Yorks will take the former any day.
So, does that make the new 49ers stadium a success, or not? It depends on what you mean by success: Despite a $1.2 billion price tag, it was paid for without bankrupting either the team or the city of Santa Clara, which is a rarity these days. On the other hand, all 49ers fans get for their years of waiting (and their hard-earned PSL cash) is to have escaped a stadium where they were in danger of frostbite for one where they’re in danger of heatstroke. And sports teams, it turns out, don’t magically turn into winners, or even remain winners, just because they’re in a schmancier building. Maybe everyone’s New Year’s resolution — for ticket-buying fans, for cities seeking stadium deals, and even for teams looking to cash in on the former two parties — should be “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”