July 20, 2011
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Jed York and Amy Trask were asked for the umpty-umpth time the is-that-a-unicorn question, and because he doesnt want people to think hes disengaged, he answered it.The unicorn is the 49ers-Raiders shared-stadium model, and though we have covered this before, we will do it again. But first, the full quote, courtesy Vittorio Tafur of La Cronica.We've put our teams together, York, the 49ers Chief Executive Son said. It doesn't mean we're going to find the right deal that fits for both teams, but we're certainly going to get a look at those options.Oh. Now, over to the response from the Raiders public face on all things stadia, Trask:We have said repeatedly that we have an open mind with respect to our stadium solution," she said. An open mind means an open mind as to sharing a facility with the 49ers. I say to Jed regularly that we should have not only an open mind to the sharing of the facility, but to the location of the facility which we might share. And so there are a lot of options for us to consider.
In other words, yes there is a unicorn. And no, weve never seen it.But the devil is in the details, as it always is, and there is way more devil than unicorn here.For one, where does the stadium go? The 49ers would want it in Santa Clara, where they keep saying they are prepared to start construction. The Raiders would want it closer to Oakland, if not Oakland proper. Reason: The team that has to leave its fan base becomes a de facto tenant of the other, no matter how you draw up the partnership.In fact, the side that gave in would surely want monetary compensation for moving away from its fan base, and negotiation increases the possibility of impasse, rather than the other way around.For two, the NFL would have to solidly commit to the Bay Area as the next place for a league stadium loan, and there is no sense that the league is prepared to do that. The league regards Los Angeles as a priority, and as we saw from the first stadium fund, it exhausts quickly, and if youre not first in line, youre not really in line.Perhaps the loan would be made available only under the strictures of a shared stadium, but we dont know that to be so. But the Bay Area would need to be a league priority for a change, and frankly, it never has been. There isnt much urgency among owners for the Bay Area rather than Los Angeles. Neither the Raiders nor 49ers can be said to be league insiders in terms of owner influence, so schmoozing the other 30 owners would have to be Roger Goodells cause, and he may not be interested, either. He has other oil fires in his garage.And for three, and this is the kicker, the Raiders line of succession is a very open question. Al Davis still clings to his chimerical piece of Los Angeles, and whether it is him or his son, putative heir Mark Davis, there is some reason to fear the notion that the Raiders might either try to move back to Los Angeles or sell and then be moved. That is not the current intention (calm yourself, Amy), but the future is less than guaranteed in Oakland either way.Point? If the Raiders leave, the 49ers end up holding the bag for both shares, and they would have to be budgeted ahead of time for such an eventuality. If money is that tight, it could be a deal-breaker, thus the 49ers would have to have ironclad assurances that the Raiders are committed to the long haul in the Bay Area.And we neednt add but will anyway, the vice needs to be every bit as versa. Its not like Jedediah wouldnt think about L.A. himself if things dragged on much longer.These are the same problems that there have always been, and negotiations here would neither be gentle nor brief. Each side has a claim to put forward, and will be as cruel as need be to do so. They might find in the end that they wouldnt be good partners at all.But yes, there is a unicorn. Somewhere off in a magical forest, and when it gallops, it leaves sparkles and rainbows behind. That, and 1.2 billion in a state thats flat broke gets you a stadium. Come back to us when youve got the money done, boys and girls, not the unicorn sighting.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.