SANTA CLARA, Calif. --Candlestick is flickering again.
Two weeks after last rites were given to the 49ers' venerable home stadium, team officials spent Monday preparing for the possibility that Candlestick Park will rise from the dead.
Victories over the weekend by the 49ers and New Orleans Saints, the two lowest-seeded teams in the NFC playoffs, kept alive the possibility that the 'Stick could go out in style--by determining which team advances to the Super Bowl.
Here's the scenario: If the No. 6 Saints beat the No. 1 Seattle Seahawks on Saturday and the No. 5 49ers beat the No. 2 Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Candlestick Park would host its ninth conference championship game.
Those are still tough odds--Seattle was a dominant 7-1 at home this year--but the scenario is real enough that the 49ers began bracing this week for the potential return of 69,000 fans on Jan. 19.
Among the items on the to-do list: Replacing or repairing the 140 or so seats that were damaged by souvenir hunters after the Dec. 23 game against the Atlanta Falcons--the presumed swan song for the 49ers' home since 1971.
That game featured glowing tributes, teary farewells and a rousing, playoff-clinching interception return by NaVorro Bowman.
A postgame concert that night featured Boyz II Men performing "End of the Road."
But maybe it wasn't.
49ers officials contacted Monday asked not to be quoted directly, fearing that it would look presumptuous--even arrogant--to look past the team's NFC divisional playoff game at Carolina on Sunday. They pointed out that the 49ers are no different from five other teams in the NFL playoffs making the same preliminary preparations. (Only the Saints and San Diego Chargers are ruled out of hosting).
Privately, though, they acknowledged that the wheels are in motion just in case the "Farewell to Candlestick" show gets a sequel. The team has checked in with the police department, fire department, janitorial staff, concessionaires and other agencies to make sure they would have staffing available for a playoff game.
In fact, if the Saints win Saturday, some employees will begin gathering at the 'Stick as early as Sunday morning so that they would be on hand to begin breathing life back into the stadium if the 49ers won, too.
The 49ers remain confident that the aging stadium would be good to go, in part because they recognized all along that this was a possibility. After the Falcons game, for example, groundskeepers replaced divots and tended to the turf--just as they always do.
The biggest remaining chore would be replacing a 900-square foot chunk near midfield. That needs repairing not because of trampling football players or even the postgame stage: It's because the extra paint for the farewell night logo took its toll on the grass.
Also, the team left temporary signage and other game-day items up rather than stowing them away for the winter.
The team is indeed selling off the seats to fans, but the plan all along was to hold off on delivery until late next year when the stadium will be demolished. Until then, the City of San Francisco plans to use the venue for athletic events and concerts, with an open-house type event planned for fans to come say goodbye.
This weekend will determine whether Candlestick Park pulls off one last NFL comeback.
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