It was just a bit more than a decade ago, former Santa Clara Mayor Patty Mahan met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at Great America. It was a meeting that changed the landscape and dynamic of Santa Clara.
The Niners had searched the Bay Area for a suitable site to build a new stadium without success and with little support from their host city, San Francisco. However, Mahan and the City Council had a brainstorm that would change Santa Clara’s landscape for generations.
Mahan invited Goodell to take a 22-story ride to the top of Great America’s Sky Trek Tower to look over the area and see what might be possible. It didn’t take long. Goodell viewed a property just off freeway 101 offering wide streets, great access for ingress and egress and enough room to house the home of a 70,000-seat stadium and even available space for parking. In addition, the nearest residential area was nearly a mile away.
Goodell pledged $300 million from the NFL to help build what became Levi’s Stadium and the new home to the SF 49ers. A special vote by residents passed with nearly a 60 percent majority in favor of building the $1.2 billion venue. The result has been the creation of a fabulous asset in the South Bay, making the 49ers partners with Santa Clara in Levi’s Stadium.
It was apparent early on the 49ers would require more parking for games. In addition, more parking would be great for numerous huge events at the stadium. The 49ers thought it would be great to use the soccer fields for overflow and thought they had the Council support to make that reality.
It didn’t happen! At the urging of Lisa Gillmor and her husband, both with some close ties to the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League, (Gillmor’s husband is coaching director) called in the hundreds of soccer supporters who showed up at the meeting and shot down the idea at City Council.
Even though the 49ers agreed to build new soccer facilities for SCS if the 49ers could use the current soccer park for parking, Gillmor and her soccer supporters wouldn’t budge.
The day after Super Bowl 2016, Mayor Jamie Matthews abruptly resigned. Gillmor then lobbied council members to appoint her mayor, to complete Matthews’ term. The Council capitulated and she has used that position for the last six years to besmirch and belittle the 49ers at every opportunity.
Interesting, there’s not a peep out of the 49ers as they have moved on, playing football, winning games, reaching the Super Bowl in 2020, supporting Santa Clara schools, helping businesses, making the stadium available as a vaccination site, hosting hundreds of events, and making money for themselves and Santa Clara.
Just think what the 49ers could do and how Santa Clara could thrive with a supportive and cooperative partner!
Santa Clara might garner a visionary city manager who is a maker, as opposed to a taker.