Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl 50, part whatever

Odd that my hometown, Santa Clara, is hosting a Super Bowl, and that the original Santa Clara High, where my brother and sister went, had a Panther as its mascot and of course, Santa Clara University, where my brother graduated has a Bronco as its mascot.

What 2 teams are playing in the Super Bowl in Santa Clara - Panthers and Broncos.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Santa Clara - host of SB 50 - and a little more history

from the Chicago Tribune

More than 40 years before Levi's Stadium was awarded Super Bowl 50, the city of Santa Clara, Calif., made a favorable impression on a young Steve Bartkowski.

"Those are the best days of my life," Bartkowski recalled of his formative years in a town that once labeled itself "The Youth Sports Capital of the World."

Bartkowski, 63, went on to become the first pick in the 1975 draft and earn two Pro Bowl selections during his 12 years as an NFL quarterback. He's just one of many athletes who received national and international fame through the city's youth programs.

The Santa Clara Swim Club, coached by the legendary George Haines and led by Mark Spitz, won 21 medals at the 1968 Olympics and 16 — including seven golds by Spitz — at the 1972 Games.

The Santa Clara University men's basketball team, led by former Bulls center Dennis Awtrey, was ranked as high as second in the nation before UCLA eliminated it in the Elite Eight in the 1968 and 1969 NCAA tournaments.

"It's kind of shocking," said Santa Clara native Jerry McClain, a star pitcher at the university during the basketball program's zenith and later the Broncos baseball coach from 1981-84.

"There always was at least one big international swim meet (at the Santa Clara Swim Center). There were one or two (youth) teams advancing to a national tournament." APphoto_Super Bowl 50 Levi Stadium Football

Ben Margot / AP

Workers lay down the first layer of paint on the 50-yard line in preparation for the Super Bowl 50.

Santa Clara's Colt League team that Bartkowski led and his father Roman, a former pitcher/first baseman in the Cubs organization, coached won the 1969 World Series. That was the same summer Santa Clara Briarwood — with 16-year future major-league infielder Carney Lansford — advanced to the Little League World Series title game before losing to Taiwan.

While Santa Clara was flexing its youth strength, the seeds for hosting an NFL championship game in the fourth-smallest city in Super Bowl history were planted innocently in a town of about 87,000, according to the 1970 U.S. Census Bureau.

Newly elected mayor Gary Gillmor and city manager Don Von Raesfeld were determined to keep Santa Clara comprised of specific sections — with residential property assigned a large but non-elastic section.

This meant buying undeveloped land in the north and east parts of the city for business and industrial purposes and building a robust tax base. McClain doesn't recall much about the vacant land other than a dairy where families bought their milk if it wasn't delivered.

The city already had three major highways and expressways that funneled into the undeveloped area, where high-tech companies such as Intel, Applied Materials, McAfee and National Semiconductor gradually started and became a large part of what is now Silicon Valley.

Gillmor, 79, cited three factors that helped Santa Clara maintain its preferred blueprint: a strong middle class, a huge industrial base for tax purposes and its own municipal power plant that reduces residents' electric bills to about half of what is charged in neighboring cities.

"Santa Clara is like the little engine that could.'' said Gillmor, a real estate maven in the Santa Clara Valley. "It just beats the big engines. We fought off home developers while keeping electricity rates low and maintaining our middle class."

The power of the city's finances was illustrated in its being able to partner with the state to get an interchange built that was instrumental in a deal with Marriott. A hotel that will host one of the Super Bowl entrants was constructed, with Marriott leasing the land from the city to build an amusement park and a parking lot.

A convention center and another large chain hotel were built in 1986, but the city's fondness for the 49ers surfaced during the height of the team's dominance.

The 49ers were given a sweetheart deal to move their training facility from Redwood City — 18 miles north of Santa Clara. Then-mayor Eddie Souza enticed then-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. with a deal that gave the team 12 acres at $1,000 an acre with a 4 percent annual increase for 55 years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gillmor declined to comment on the deal, but the city still kept a large chunk of undeveloped land in the area.

DeBartolo and 49ers President Carmen Policy still pushed for a new stadium near their old home at dilapidated Candlestick Park until DeBartolo's legal troubles in the late 1990s tempered their pursuit.

Although voters from five Santa Clara County cities in 1990 rejected a tax to finance a stadium for the Giants in Santa Clara, Kevin Moore wasn't discouraged. Moore, a longtime Santa Clara resident and member of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission in 2003, wrote a letter to a team official asking him to consider Santa Clara as a stadium option.

Moore and a groundswell of supporters sold the 49ers on the abundance of undeveloped land next to the 49ers' practice facility, as well as ample parking from the amusement park and local Amtrak and light-rail systems within walking distance of the proposed site. APphoto_Super Bowl Trip Guide

Eric Risberg / AP

In this Sept. 14, 2015 photo taken with a fisheye lens, a large flag is presented during the national anthem at Levi's Stadium before a game between the 49ers and the Vikings.

Momentum grew to the point that Santa Clara voters passed a measure in 2010 to build a football stadium adjacent to the 49ers' facility. Construction started in 2012 and was completed two years later.

Like most major events, Santa Clara is dealing with its share of controversy involving the stadium and Super Bowl.

There is the fear Santa Clara and other local cities — including San Francisco — could lose money from hosting festivities leading up to the game. Repeated turf issues overshadowed the newness of the stadium during its inaugural season in 2014.

The game's midafternoon start time should alleviate concerns about fans' discomfort due to a lack of shade on the east side, although Santa Clara winters are relatively mild.

Despite the national hype, Santa Clara will maintain a semblance of its youthful significance once the Super Bowl is played.

Washington Park, a WPA project built in 1935 and located on the south edge of town, will host the Palomino World Series for 17- and 18-year-olds. It's also where a 25-year-old Class A catcher named Joe Maddon ended his playing career with the co-op Santa Clara Padres in the California League in 1979.

But memories for locals still exist, such as the signs commemorating the four Colt League World Series teams that are posted above the park's entrance.

Adjacent to Washington Park is Townsend Field, where Bartkowski's skills while playing for Buchser High School attracted recruiters and led to him becoming an All-American at Cal. Townsend currently is used by the successful Santa Clara Lions youth football program.

"The facilities, the coaching, the time and effort gave me a jump-start in my athletic career," said Bartkowski, who moved from Iowa to Santa Clara at age 10 and now resides in the Atlanta area.

"I looked up to local heroes like Jim Plunkett (who grew up in San Jose and won the 1970 Heisman Trophy at Stanford) and Craig Morton (who grew up in nearby Campbell before attending Cal). But I'll never forget how lucky I was to play in Santa Clara."