I headed downtown to check out Super Bowl City today. I was expecting the usual street fair with live music, hot dogs, cotton candy, and kitschy souvenirs. Instead I hit a wall of security. Literally.
The Super Bowl Village is well fortified with serious airport style security. It’s impossible to just wander in. Heavily patrolled black fencing marks the periphery of the camp. I also thought of all the security that you can’t see – the electronic stuff that’s embedded in the environment. I completely understand the need for security. I don’t object to it. But I stood there thinking about the cavalcade of corporate sponsorships and funnel cakes waiting on the other side of the frisk and bag search line and decided to walk away. I just didn’t see the point. The message I got from the venue was, “Please come and enjoy™ yourself!®. BTW this is a potential terrorism site.”
I know the city well enough that I headed to the usual spots where I could look down at the village from a distance. No dice. All cordoned off. I realized that anyplace that was great for taking photos with a zoom lens was also great for a sniper. The authorities were totally on top of that.
By the way, the actual game is being held in a new stadium fifty miles away in Santa Clara. Some years ago the San Francisco 49ers decided they wanted a shiny new stadium. They approached city authorities with the usual demands for subsidies and sweeteners. The city shrugged. “Build your own damned stadium.”
So the team shopped around and found a more malleable and accommodating municipality. Santa Clara obliged. Free land. Loads of new infrastructure. A lengthy contract that guaranteed Santa Clara would provide all kinds of goodies, but only vague promises from the team about what it might do for Santa Clara in return. Technically it’s illegal for Santa Clara to spend public money on a private profit-making enterprise like this. So a special non governmental “authority” was created and bonds were issued in its name. Anyone want to guess who’s going to be paying back those bonds? Hint. Not the 49ers.
What Santa Clara just bought itself, aside from a mountain of debt, is a giant facility that sits empty 90% of the time while taking up a huge amount of extremely valuable land. It also bought itself the mother of all traffic jams every time there’s an event at the stadium. It’s part of an economic development strategy that includes a convention center and hotels. Hey. This is Silicon Valley. It’s cutting edge. These are super smart folks. They’re way ahead of the rest of the country. No one’s ever tried this innovative tactic before.