Michael Gay expected to follow a rhythm last week similar to what’s been done for so many seasons at Candlestick Park this time of year.
Gay, the chief engineer and stadium manager at Candlestick, said his crews would perform the usual maintenance work during the week, followed by a walk-through inspection of the stadium and any last-minute touch-ups to ensure it’s “up to snuff” when the San Francisco 49ers host Monday night’s football game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Gay and his crew will arrive around 7:30 a.m. Monday, he said, long before the hordes of red-and-gold-clad fans start filing into the parking lot and stands. And by kickoff time, he said last week, standing in the bowels of the weathered structure he described as “my second home,” Monday will “probably be just like any other game.”
“You’re very busy during the game,” Gay said. “We have a lot of escalator calls, a lot of seat calls. I’m sure people will try to take their seat – they’ll probably get here early and break their seat and want us to come fix it. So I think it won’t sink in till after the game.”
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Monday marks the final home game of the regular season for the 49ers. And in all likelihood, it also marks the end of Candlestick Park’s 42-year tenure as the team’s home stadium. The 49ers plan to move in 2014 to a state-of-the-art stadium in Santa Clara, nearer the team’s headquarters. The 70,000-seat structure at Candlestick Point toward the southeastern end of San Francisco is slated for demolition as early as next fall.
Opened as home to baseball’s San Francisco Giants in 1960, and to the 49ers beginning in 1971, Candlestick Park has provided the backdrop to many iconic moments in this city’s storied sporting history, as well as a few on the cultural landscape.
The Beatles played their final concert for a paying crowd at Candlestick in 1966. The pope visited in 1987. The 49ers’ run of five Super Bowl titles from 1981-95 is often said to have begun with the 1982 NFC Championship Game at Candlestick that featured the Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark touchdown pass known simply as “The Catch.”
The Giants never won a championship at Candlestick before moving out in 2000. But much of the nation watched in 1989 as the Loma Prieta earthquake struck just before Game 3 of the World Series between the Giants and the Oakland A’s, causing catastrophic damage in the Bay Area and postponing the Series for 10 days.
As an employee of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, which manages Candlestick Park, Gay said he has reported to work at the stadium for 35 years. Until it comes down, he said, “We’ll still be here maintaining the place.”
“But we won’t be the talk of the town anymore,” he said. “That’ll be kind of weird.”
Though without a major sports tenant for the first time since it opened, Candlestick will not go dark immediately following the final whistle Monday, said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the Recreation and Parks Department.
Instead, the venue is expected to host a variety of events over the next eight months, with high school sporting events and professional soccer matches among the possibilities, Ginsburg said.
The city also intends to hold a “community day” to give sports fans one more opportunity to visit the stadium, and a farewell event to “really pay tribute” to Candlestick before its demolition, Ginsburg said. Those have yet to be scheduled. A slim possibility remains of the stadium hosting a postseason game should the 49ers make the playoffs this year, but NFL rules on seeding and home-field advantage make that unlikely.
Ginsburg said the city also is “in conversation with several big names” regarding possible concerts. The whale would be Paul McCartney, the former Beatle who, according to media reports, told city officials last August he was interested in helping San Francisco bid farewell to “The Stick.”
“We’re still hopeful about that,” Ginsburg said. “We are in discussions with his team about the possibility of him coming to Candlestick.”
Meanwhile, the department will begin the process of deconstructing the stadium, preserving equipment that might be repurposed elsewhere in the parks system or sold. Fans got a glimpse of that future earlier this month, with the 49ers announcing that people can purchase seats from Candlestick Park at $749 a pair.
Ultimately, the stadium will be handed over to developer Lennar Corp., which is leading a redevelopment project in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood that includes Candlestick. Lennar will handle the actual demolition, though Kofi Bonner, president of Lennar Urban, said a specific date and method are as yet undetermined. In its place, Lennar plans a mixed-use development that will include housing and retail units.
Bonner said the method of demolition – whether rapid implosion or a wrecking ball – should be decided in the next few months and could begin around October 2014. “Our analysis, which we’ve only just started, is determining the most environmentally sensitive way to do that, given the stadium has neighbors,” he said.
What’s certain, Bonner said, is that Candlestick “will come down.”
Even after the landmark disappears from the landscape, some of the moments that played out there may be memorialized in some form.
Clark, the former 49ers wide receiver who will be part of Monday’s farewell program, said on a conference call last week that “it would be cool” to have the stadium location and his historic catch marked in some way after Candlestick is gone.
“I think it’d be cool no matter what they build there if they did put some plaque or something that said this is where the 49ers made the play that started their run of success,” Clark said.
Bonner said such an idea is not out of the question.
“We have some ideas that we’ll obviously share with the city, how to denote some of the more memorable situations in the lifetime of Candlestick,” he said. “None of that is solid, but it’s certainly something we think is a great thing to incorporate into the development of that area.”
Gay, the stadium chief, said he doesn’t yet know if he’ll be on hand when Candlestick comes down. “I might be in Las Vegas,” he said. Later, he gave a small shrug when asked if he wants to see the stadium demolished.
“Well, it’s kind of outlived its usefulness,” he said. “Better to have it imploded than just sit around and let the weeds grow.”