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SAN FRANCISCO-The San Francisco 49ers said Thursday it will focus on constructing its new 68,000-seat football stadium in Santa Clara rather than San Francisco. Santa Clara, located at the south end of San Francisco Bay, is already home to the team’s headquarters and practice facility.

Team owner John York on Wednesday night informed San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom of the team’s decision to end negotiations with the city about building its privately financed stadium where its 43-year-old current stadium, Monster Park, now stands. Lennar Corp. is the team’s development partner for the project, which includes a mixed-use component.

“I think that the city, Lennar and the 49ers hoped [Candlestick] would be the best site, but as we’ve gone through the hours and millions of dollars worth of study and analysis [it became clear that] Candlestick cannot accommodate all that we are asking it to do and still provide the fan with the ultimate experience,” York said in a Thursday press conference. “I think [San Francisco city officials] recognize there are hurdles at Candlestick Point and, in all fairness, for us to meet our deadline of 2012 I think it’s best not to continue the approval process and move to where many of those hurdles have already been resolved, Santa Clara.”

Specifically, York mentioned the need to give the fans the surface parking for the traditional tailgating parties that occur before and after the football games. At the Candlestick Point site, because most of the surface parking is slated to become a mixed-use development, York said that in order to park all cars for 68,000 fans it would require a 10,000-car parking garage, satellite lots and shuttles. “We need [surface] parking available for our fans so they can tailgate in the traditional way when they choose to do so,” he said during the news conference.

In addition, York said the waterfront Candlestick Point site, which abuts a state park, presented other expensive and complex infrastructure issues and, as a result, an extended approval process that could push the cost of the project over its $600 to $800-million estimate and push its completion date beyond 2012. By contrast, the proposed Santa Clara site, near Great America amusement park and Santa Clara Convention Center, presents few of the same problems, he said. Mayor Gavin Newsom could not be reached Thursday afternoon for comment and had not yet issued any statement.

The 49ers current lease at Candlestick runs through the 2008 season. The team holds three five-year options that could extend it through 2023. A new stadium at Candlestick Point was going to be part of the city’s bid for the 2016 summer Olympics. San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago are the three cities competing to be the US Olympic Committee’s choice to bid on the event.

The 49ers tried once before to build a new stadium at Candlestick Point. The team partnered with retail developer Mills Corp. in 1997 to explore a stadium project that would connect to a new shopping mall, but nothing ever came of it. The team partnered with Lennar in 2005. Their mixed-use development concept includes several thousand housing units.

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