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Lowell Cohn: 49ers not being neighborly with youth soccer league

  • The 49ers had promised a youth soccer facility near Levi's Stadium that they would pay a portion of the facility's relocation costs in 2012. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The San Francisco 49ers are a good football team, but they are a bad neighbor.

Just ask the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League. Just ask the kids. The 49ers dumped the kids and then dumped on them.

You need to visualize this. As you drive over to Levi's Stadium where the 49ers will play their games next season, you come to a corner, a lovely corner abutting the 49ers' headquarters and new stadium. On this corner is the Youth Soccer Park, a state-of-the-art beauty with three fields and plenty of parking. Kids have been playing there for years.

The soccer league was a big booster for the Niners' new stadium. The Niners courted the soccer league. The Niners were nice to the soccer league. At the time, it seemed the Niners were being a good neighbor. The Niners pledged to create alternate soccer fields because traffic on 49ers' game days would make it awkward for soccer kids to play their games.

The Niners have reneged on their commitment for alternate fields. I'll get back to that in a moment. I'll say this for now. It sure seems the 49ers needed votes of soccer parents for their stadium initiative to go through, but they didn't really care about being good neighbors once they got their stadium.

As part of the good-neighbor policy, Jed York himself wrote a letter in 2012 to Matt Heintz, president of the 1,500-member league, saying the 49ers understood there would be thousands of fans driving and parking and milling near the soccer fields on Sundays when the soccer league plays lots of games. The Niners would be happy to fund replacement fields.

Here is Jed in 2012: “To demonstrate our commitment to our community's young soccer players and their families we are proposing that the 49ers underwrite several regulation-sized additional soccer fields in Santa Clara. These fields would be dedicated and maintained for the use of the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League during NFL game days.”

That's a wonderful letter, full of the right kind of feeling. Reading it you just want to pinch Jed's young cheeks and give him an “atta boy.” Jed signed off the letter with this admirable sentiment: “We have been part of the Santa Clara community for 22 years and we are committed to remaining a good neighbor to the soccer community.”

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