To what degree would a new stadium make the San Francisco 49ers more competitive in the NFC West and beyond?
New stadiums can bring added revenue, improved home-field advantages and organizational stability. The 49ers could use all those things as they await results of a Tuesday vote on a stadium initiative in Santa Clara.
Losing the vote would stand as a significant setback for the 49ers and team president Jed York. Candlestick Park has no future as a competitive venue in the NFL.
New stadiums in Seattle and Arizona built earlier this decade helped the 49ers' division rivals enjoy some of their finest seasons. Qwest Field opened in 2002. The Seahawks won division titles after the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons. They had won only two previously in franchise history. University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006. The Cardinals won division titles after the 2008 and 2009 seasons after failing to win one since 1975.
Of course, the Seahawks and Cardinals had other things going for them. Both had already acquired franchise quarterbacks before their new stadiums opened. The Seahawks already had Mike Holmgren as head coach and a billionaire owner in Paul Allen. The Cardinals had drafted exceptionally well in 2004, adding Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith.
New stadiums do not guarantee success, but successful organizations often have them. The 49ers got to 8-8 last season after failing to reach .500 for six consecutive seasons. The team appears positioned to be competitive again this season and possibly for years to come. Winning a new stadium, to be completed in time for the 2014 season, would provide more evidence the organization could be headed in the right direction.