| The Beatles in 1968. (AFP)
San Francisco, June 23 (Reuters): For sports fans, music lovers and even Roman Catholics, Candlestick Park is hallowed ground.
The Beatles played their last concert there, baseball hero Willie Mays set National League records and Pope John Paul II said mass to the faithful.
But despite the memories, the 43-year-old stadium is a lonely place these days. The Giants baseball team, unhappy for decades about bitter winds that played havoc with the game, moved out in 1999. The 49ers football team play just 10 games a year. Rock bands rarely power up their amplifiers there.
San Francisco, which owns the stadium, has recently tried to drum up interest in the fading concrete structure and sell its naming rights to help shore up depleted city coffers. Estimated price tag: $1 million a year, which the city would share with the 49ers.
The board of supervisors, the city’s legislative branch, is due to review the issue next month. If they approve it, efforts to sell the name would begin in earnest.
Selling the stadium name, now commonplace in American sports, is as passionately debated as any sports contest. Traditionalists say auctioning the name to the highest bidder tarnishes sports.
Former Giant Willie McCovey, one of the greatest baseball home-run hitters of all time, sees no reason to change the name Candlestick. “I’d like to see it preserved, the name behind it and its history,” he said.
Yet the ball park is surprisingly free of nostalgia.
There are no reminders that an era of Beatlemania ended there in 1966 or that vice-president Richard Nixon threw out the first ball ever on April 12 1960.
Only a few private offices inside include mementoes of Mays, who in 1966 set what was then the National League record for career home runs there. The pitcher blown off the mound by wind in 1963 is just a footnote in the history books.
The 1989 earthquake that interrupted the World Series is alive only in the memories of fans.
“When the Giants left, it was like the tenant that left in the middle of the night and ripped all the stuff off the walls,” said Donald Cavallero, an engineer on Candlestick’s staff of 10.
There is a stadium plaque to footballer .J. Simpson but it avoids mention of his trial on double murder charges.
For $900,000 a year, San Francisco sold Candlestick’s name in 1995, re-christening the stadium 3Com Park.
3Com’s contract ended last year and the high-tech company is considered to be more interested in conserving its cash than trying to extend the deal.
Disdainful of the commercialism of such deals, the board of supervisors turned down a renaming offer from Sony that would have brought in $1 million a year.
“The victory in San Francisco last year was huge. Candlestick was the first pro stadium to return to its popular name,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, a group opposed to excessive commercial advertising. “It showed the tremendous hatred that sports fans have for these naming rights deals.”