The teams: Santa Clara schools and the San Francisco 49ers.
The contest: politics.
The venue: Sacramento.
The stakes: $30 million.
When state legislators return from their summer vacation Monday, their agenda includes deciding who gets the money. Will it go to public schools or the football stadium rising alongside the Great America amusement park?
Given the NFL's recent track record in the halls of the state Capitol, you probably shouldn't wager much on the schoolchildren prevailing.
But if you harbor any doubts about the flaws of California's fading redevelopment system, this episode ought to allay them once and for all.
In 2010, Santa Clara voters approved a ballot measure that, among other things, pledged up to $40 million in redevelopment money for the 49ers new stadium. Aside from giving voters a say, the deal was standard redevelopment fare — using public money to entice an investment by private developers, in this case the 49ers.
About $10 million was spent before the state eliminated redevelopment, a program that allowed cities (mostly) to divert property taxes from counties and schools to finance economic development and affordable housing in "blighted" areas.
The law eliminating redevelopment agencies allowed them to fulfill enforceable obligations. But a committee charged with unwinding redevelopment agencies in Santa Clara County determined there wasn't an obligation to spend more on the stadium. The committee voted to turn the money over to local schools.
The 49ers sued. The case is pending, but state Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, is making an end run. She gutted a teacher credentialing bill that already cleared the state Senate, inserting language reallocating the $30 million to the stadium.
The bill cites "unique circumstances." In her own comments, Alquist points to tax revenue and jobs for Santa Clara. Of course, Candlestick Park, the present home of the 49ers, produces taxes and jobs, too. Just not in Santa Clara.
Other communities, including Petaluma and Santa Rosa, have argued that their unique circumstances justified continuation of redevelopment projects. For the most part, however, they got turned down by state finance officials. Legislators should apply the same standards in assessing Alquist's plea for special treatment.
Two considerations: For most school districts, there isn't an immediate net gain with redevelopment money. Santa Clara is an exception; this would be a true windfall. And bear in mind, the $30 million in question amounts to 2.5 percent of the $1.2 billion stadium project. Does anyone think the 49ers will abandon their new stadium if they don't get the redevelopment money?
Given the NFL's multi-billion dollar TV deal and the added revenue from a new stadium (a license to buy a season ticket will cost $20,000 to $30,000), the 49ers can afford to do what the San Francisco Giants did: pay for their own new stadium.
But after seeing environmental impact laws waived for not one but two stadiums in Los Angeles, the 49ers surely know that legislators like to please the NFL. Perhaps more than they like to pay for public schools. Let the games begin.