Tensions rise among Cedar Fair, Santa Clara and SF 49ers over Great America

October 10, 2007, 9:42 AM · Will the San Francisco 49ers pro football team be the new owners of the Great America theme park in Santa Clara, Calif.?

That's one option the team's put on the table as it looks to find a new stadium to replace its long-time home on Candlestick Point. The Niners have eyed a new site in Santa Clara, on the parking lot of Great America. At first, Cedar Point was cool with the deal to build on its proprty, then not, then neutral and now, maybe not again.

Needless to say, that's ticking off the locals, including the Niners, as detailed in the Mercury News. So the Niners have floated the idea of buying the whole property, if Cedar Fair won't give up part of it for the stadium.

If Cedar Fair held onto the park and partnered with the Niners, perhaps we could settle the whole Cedar Fair vs. Six Flags battle on the football field, the next time San Francisco plays Six Flags chairman Dan Snyder's Washington franchise.

Replies (10)

October 10, 2007 at 1:40 PM · That would be awesome, especially if the team and the park worked together and integrated elements of the team into the park and vice versa. And what a backdrop that would be for an NFL stadium. Could you imagine having a roller coaster whiz by in the background of your Sunday game? With the screams from the park and the roar of the crowd brewing so loud that your heart races on 4th and 1 on the opposing team's 1-yard line down by 6 with 5 seconds left in the game. Can you imagine the hype and tension? Sports and theme parks, a possible match made in heaven?
October 10, 2007 at 2:12 PM · I'm not familiar with this particular park and that area, but if it served as joint use for a stadium and a theme park it sounds like it would be a parking nightmare. I agree that there could be some neat theming elements done, but I wouldn't want Worlds Of Fun (my local CF park) to share parking with the Kansas City Chiefs. Again, I am not familiar with the area, but unless there was enough parking to handle peak Sunday attendance at Great America and Niners game at the same time, I see this as a one or the other kind of option.
October 10, 2007 at 5:27 PM · Cedar Fair's deal with the city was that it gets 8,000 parking spaces for the park, so one would assume that would be a big issue on game days, assuming that the football fans, obviously, would want to get into whatever nearby parking was available. (And would have to be built to replace parking spaces that disappear under the new stadium.)

I can't imagine that the 49ers buying out Cedar Fair's management contract would be good news for the park, since the Niners would need some manager to run the park... and CF's just about the best option available. (I can't see Six Flags running two parks in the Bay Area, and the facility just doesn't fit the style of Disney, Universal or Busch. Who does that leave? Herschend? Sorry, the SF Bay Area just doesn't seem like a match for them.... Merlin?)

I sense that Cedar Fair's pain over the issue would quickly go away were it thrown more cash that it has been offered to date. Sound like there's some public negotiating going on....

October 10, 2007 at 8:37 PM · There's actually enough space to spread out there as it's between Highway 101 and the water. Why not build a parking garage like at Disneyland? It seems to me that building the stadium there could boost park attendance, and possibly game attendance as well. Great America was never my favorite park, but I did experience my first inverted, floorless ride there on Top Gun.
October 11, 2007 at 7:00 AM · This is all going to come down to what the town of Santa Clara wants. Cedar Fair has a lease with the city through 2039, and the park area is zoned amusement. I doubt that Cedar Fair planned on leaving (They wouldn't really care about the stadium if that were the case), but if the city wants to buy their lease out and the residents want the stadium instead of the amusement park, than it appears that Cedar Fair would gracefully exit...with a handful of money from someone. The bottom line for them is that they feel the stadium would ultimately hurt the business of Great America in one way or another. I don't know if more money in Cedar Fair's pocket from the city would change that perception or not.

After taking a look, I have to agree that parking and other things would indeed be a mess when gameday rolls around. Granted with the NFL that is only 8 times a year, but I somehow doubt that the 49ers will be the only ones using the stadium. Plus, this will put the park in a precarious situation landwise. The park would then be pretty much landlocked, and new projects would be a problem. Also, the stadium will significantly increase the commercial value of the land. Wherever the stadium is built, not too long after, businesses/corporations/real estate investors will be tapping on the city's shoulder to develop around it...offering a lot of money for the land around the stadium...(can anyone say Six Flags Astroworld?) The idea of the 49ers buying and running the park is a bit of a laugh. First of all, they wouldn't run anything. In fact, I suspect that they would dole out a management contract for the first couple years, seek to buy the land, and than kick, scream, cry, and pay out money to someone until they get the green light to close the place. Than after they closed it, they would sell the land to the highest bidder, and Santa Clara would be another city with a stadium surrounded with sports bars, malls, and gift shops. A bit jaded and cynical I know, but you watch and see what happens if the 49ers buy the park.

By the way, heres the press release from Cedar Fair concerning this matter


October 11, 2007 at 6:57 AM · Nice! The Niners could rename the park "Boardwalk and Football."
October 11, 2007 at 8:31 AM · Yeah, I think we can stipulate at this point that the sports field/theme park combo does not work. See Six Flags AstroWorld, Boardwalk and Baseball. I'd even throw in Disney's Wide World of Sports, which hasn't failed, but hasn't provide much catalytic benefit to the Walt Disney Resort, either.
October 11, 2007 at 8:37 AM · More on this here:

As to parking, the park closes in October, so that wouldn't be a conflict for most of the NFL season. Quite frankly, Great America is probably my least favorite theme park visited (pity since it's only 20 minutes away), and my opinion has actually dropped since Cedar Fair Took over.

October 11, 2007 at 1:37 PM · I should have added Elitch Gardens in Denver, too. (Located next to the Pepsi Center.)

Stadiums and theme parks simply don't create any market synergies when you locate them next to one another. A day at the game and a day at the park are simply too big of events, and too much of an expense, to expect a significant number of people to attempt both in one day.

In fact, co-locating the two creates enormous logistical problems, as parking, access and egress in the shared space can discourage attendance at both.

The only time co-location makes sense if the two will share a parking lot that they will *never* use at the same time, saving the expense of building two lots. But I can't imagine a schedule that would allow that. The NFL exhibition season starts in August. What theme park would want to give up Saturdays in August and Sundays in September to its neighbor tenant? That's leaving too much money on the table, I think, despite whatever promotional benefit that co-location provides.

October 11, 2007 at 5:13 PM · Amazing...are the 49ers moving to Santa Clara? And who's paying for the new stadium...the taxpayers of...where? San Francisco? San Jose? Santa Clara? The county? The State?

They'd better spend the money now, 'cause when all those bad mortgages foreclose, there won't be any more tax revenue.

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