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Days are numbered for San Francisco's Candlestick Park

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With the San Francisco 49ers dead set on a South Bay move, Candlestick Park’s future is bleak. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images file photo
  • With the San Francisco 49ers dead set on a South Bay move, Candlestick Park’s future is bleak.

With the 49ers entering the red zone for scoring a new home in Santa Clara, even Mayor Ed Lee admits there’s only one way the team will remain in The City — the South Bay deal falling apart. But if the Niners somehow decide to stay, Candlestick Park’s days are numbered.

For the better part of a decade, the concrete stadium more affectionately known as the ’Stick has been wrapped up in a larger plan to redevelop southeast San Francisco with huge tracts of new housing and retail development. If professional football is still played in The City by the time the project comes to fruition, it will likely be inside a brand-new stadium across the water at Hunters Point.

In the more likely scenario in which the team heads 50 miles south, there doesn’t seem to be much of a future for the windswept citadel.

City-approved project maps for the Hunters Point redevelopment plan show homes, retail and soccer fields around the Candlestick site, which has failed in recent years to lure big events besides football games.

Lucrative arena concerts tend to book at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland or the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Currently, Muni uses the Candlestick parking lot to train bus drivers, and the field has been used to shoot commercials featuring former quarterback great Joe Montana, according to The City’s Recreation and Park Department, which manages the park.

Lennar Urban, the Hunters Point project developer, says a much smaller sporting venue could be in the works for the site.

“Our current plans for the site of Candlestick Park call for a mixed-use retail entertainment district, including a performance arena of 10,000 seats for small sporting events and concerts,” Lennar Urban President Kofi Bonner said in a statement.

The current 49ers stadium contract allows the team to terminate the Candlestick Park lease in 2015 with one-year options through 2023. But earlier this month, the team announced that an $850 million loan had been secured for its effort to move forward on the Santa Clara site.

Still, Planning Commissioner Mike Antonini thinks NFL football can survive in San Francisco, with or without the 49ers.

“I would like to still continue to keep the 49ers, or build a facility capable of having another NFL team,” Antonini said.

Antonini said he has put the Mayor’s Office in touch with a high-profile architectural firm known for building world-class stadiums around the country, although Lee’s spokeswoman, Christine Falvey, has insisted that the mayor has no ambitions to throw a “Hail Mary” to keep the team.

Even though the fate of Candlestick may be sealed, a timeline for its demise remains to be seen. The larger revitalization project depends on housing market demand.

While Niners fans have long complained about Candlestick’s shortcomings, many hold fond memories of the venue. San Jose resident Cassady Monsen, who made the weekly trek to see the Niners play for 30 years, recalls the team’s victory over the Cowboys in the 1994 season to make the Super Bowl.

“I’ll never forget when we beat the Cowboys; it was the loudest the stadium had ever been,” he said. “Every fan from kickoff to the last play was screaming.”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

SF Examiner Staff Writer Andrea Koskey contributed to this story.

Candlestick Park history

1960: The San Francisco Giants begin playing in Candlestick Park after moving from New York in 1958.
1966: The Beatles play their last commercial live concert at Candlestick.
1971: 49ers move to Candlestick.
1982: In what has since been known simply as “The Catch,” Dwight Clark of the 49ers pulls down a touchdown pass from Joe Montana in the NFC Championship game to lead the team to its first Super Bowl.
1989: Loma Prieta earthquake rocks Candlestick during Game 3 of the World Series between the Giants and the Oakland A’s.
2000: Giants move out of Candlestick for their new home at Pacific Bell Park, now known as AT&T Park.
2006: 49ers announce intentions to pursue a new home in Santa Clara despite plans for a new football stadium as part of a San Francisco redevelopment project.
2011: 49ers announce an $850 million loan approved for financing the bulk of a new Santa Clara stadium.