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Candlestick Park

Candlestick Park (also commonly referred to as Candlestick or The Stick) is an outdoor sports and entertainment stadium located in San Francisco, California. The stadium was originally built as the home of the San Francisco Giants, who played there from 1960 until moving into Pacific Bell Park (since renamed AT&T Park) in 2000. Currently it is the home field of the San Francisco 49ers NFL team, who moved in for the 1971 season. Candlestick Park may be replaced by New 49ers Stadium as early as 2012.

The stadium is situated at Candlestick Point on the western shore of the San Francisco Bay. Due to its location next to the bay, strong winds often swirl down into the stadium, creating unusual playing conditions. At the time of its construction in the late 1950s, the stadium site was the cheapest plot of land available in the city that was suitable for a sports stadium.

The surface of the field is natural bluegrass, but for nine seasons the stadium had artificial turf, from 1970 to 1978. A "sliding pit" configuration, with dirt cut-outs only around the bases, was installed in 1971, primarily to keep the dust down from the breezy conditions. Following the 1978 football season, the artificial turf was removed. Natural grass was re-installed before the 1979 baseball season.

Park history

Ground was broken in for the new home of the National League's San Francisco Giants, who had moved west from New York following the end of the 1957 season. The Giants selected the name of Candlestick Park after a name-the-park contest on March 3, 1959. Prior to that, its construction site had been shown on maps as the generic Bay View Stadium. It was the first modern baseball stadium, as it was the first to be built entirely of reinforced concrete. Richard Nixon threw out the first baseball on the opening day of Candlestick Park on April 12, 1960, and the Oakland Raiders played their 1961 American Football League season at the stadium.

The Beatles played their last live commercial concert at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.

The stadium was enclosed during the winter of 1971–72 for the 49ers, with stands built around the outfield. The result was that the wind speed dropped marginally, but often swirled around throughout the stadium, and the view of the Bay was lost.

Currently, Candlestick Park is the only NFL stadium that began as a baseball-only facility and underwent extensive reconstruction to accommodate football, as evidenced the stadium's unusual oblong design that leaves many seats on what was the right-field side of the stadium behind the eastern grandstand of the stadium during football games. Candlestick is also currently the only NFL football stadium in which upper-deck supports obstruct sight lines from the first-deck seating.

Candlestick Park was also home to dozens of commercial shoots as well as the location for the climatic scene in both the 1962 thriller Experiment in Terror and the 1973 Richard Rush comedy Freebie and the Bean.

On October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake (measuring 7.1 on the Richter Scale) struck San Francisco, minutes before Game 3 of the World Series was to begin at Candlestick. Remarkably, no one within the stadium was injured, although minor structural damage was incurred to the stadium. Al Michaels and Tim McCarver, who called the game for ABC, later credited the stadium's design for saving thousands of lives. The World Series between the Giants and Oakland Athletics was subsequently delayed for 10 days, in part to give engineers time to check the stadium's (and that of nearby Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum) overall structural soundness. During this time, the 49ers moved their game against the New England Patriots on October 22 to Stanford Stadium.

In , the Giants moved to the new Pacific Bell Park (now called AT&T Park) in the South Beach neighborhood, leaving the 49ers as the sole professional sports team to use Candlestick. The final baseball game was played on September 30, 1999, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won 9–4. Ironically, the last game was played under blue skies with no fog and a game time temperature of a very non Candlestick like 82 degrees.

Reputation

As a baseball field, the stadium was best known for the windy conditions that often made life difficult for outfielders trying to catch fly balls, as well as for fans. Architect John Bolles designed the park with a boomerang-shaped concrete baffle in the upper tier which was designed to protect the park from wind; however, it never worked. For Candlestick's first 10 seasons, the wind blew in from left-center and out toward right-center. When the stadium was enclosed for the 49ers, the wind would swirl from all directions, and was as strong and cold as before.

During the first of two All Star games played in the park (one in , the other in ), Giants pitcher Stu Miller was forced into a balk by a gust of wind. Two years later, wind picked up the entire batting cage and dropped it 60 feet (18 m) away on the pitcher’s mound while the New York Mets were taking batting practice.

The stadium also had the reputation as the coldest park in the major leagues, resulting in fewer home runs (for example, Willie Mays claimed that the wind cost him at least 150 home runs). It was initially built with a radiant heating system to keep most of the seats warm. However the system didn't work as intended, and the city and the Giants refused to spend the money that it would cost to get it to work. The Giants also played more day games than any major-league team except the Chicago Cubs. Many locals, including Giants' broadcaster Lon Simmons, were surprised at the decision to build the park right on the bay, in one of the coldest areas of the city.

The Giants played on the reputation to bolster fan support with promotions such as awarding the Croix de Candlestick pin to fans at the conclusion of extra-inning night games that the Giants won. Among many less-than-flattering fan nicknames for the park were "North Pole" and "Cave of the Winds."

Giants owner Horace Stoneham visited the site during the day in 1959 -- not knowing about the cold, windy and foggy conditions that overtake it at night. By 1963, he commissioned a study to find a way to improve the park. The study revealed that conditions would have been significantly improved had the park been built a few hundred yards further to the east.

The winds are intense in the immediate area of the park, but relatively benign a few hundred yards to the north or east. This is because of a hill immediately adjacent to the park. This hill, in turn, is the first topographical obstacle met by the prevailing winds arriving from the Pacific Ocean seven miles to the west. Arriving at Candlestick from the Pacific, these winds travel through what is known as the Alemany Gap before reaching the hill. The combination of ocean winds free-flowing to Candlestick, then swirling over the adjacent hill created the windy conditions that were the bane of the Giants' 40-year stay on Candlestick Point (These same winds, of course, attract wind-surfers in droves to the wind-whipped San Francisco Bay coves south of Candlestick). It is indeed the wind and not the ambient air temperature that provides Candlestick's famed chill. The Giants' subsequent home, AT&T Park is just one degree warmer, but is far less windy, creating a "warmer" (relatively speaking) effect. While the wind is a summer condition (hot inland, cool oceanside), winter weather is right in line with the rest of sea level Northern California (mild with occasional rain).

Attorney Melvin Belli filed a claim against the Giants in 1960 because his six-seat box, which cost him almost $1,600, was unbearably cold. Belli won in court, claiming that the "radiant heating system" advertised was a failure. (Source: How Do Astronauts Scratch an Itch? by David Feldman)

Candlestick was an object of scorn from baseball purists for reasons other than weather. Even though it was originally built for baseball, foul territory was quite roomy. According to longtime Giants announcer Lon Simmons, nearly every seat was too far from the field.

Name changes

Candlestick Park was named for Candlestick Point, a point of land jutting into San Francisco Bay. Candlestick Point is itself named for the indigenous "candlestick bird" (Long-billed Curlew), once common to the point.

The rights to the stadium name were licensed to 3Com Corporation from September, 1995 until 2002. During that time, the park became known as 3Com Park at Candlestick Point. In 2002, the naming rights deal expired, and the park then became officially known as San Francisco Stadium at Candlestick Point. On September 28, 2004, a new naming rights deal was signed with Monster Cable, a maker of cables for electronic equipment, and the stadium was renamed Monster Park.

The City and County of San Francisco had trouble finding a new naming sponsor due in part to the downturn in the economy, but also because the stadium's tenure as 3Com Park was tenuous at best. Many local fans were annoyed with the change and continued referring to the park by its original name, and many continue to do so to this day, regardless of the official name. The Giants reportedly continued to call the stadium "Candlestick Park" in media guides. Freeway signs in the vicinity were recently changed to read "Monster Park" as part of an overall signage upgrade to national standards on California highways. Although as of 2008, those signs have been changed back to Candlestick Park.

The name change also ended up being confusing for the intended branding purposes, as without the "Cable" qualifier in the official name, many erroneously thought the stadium was named for the Monster.com employment website or Monster Energy Drink, not the cable vendor .

A measure passed in the November 2, 2004, election stipulated that the stadium name to revert back to Candlestick permanently after the current contract with Monster Cable expired in 2008. Monster Park is similarly almost universally referred to as Candlestick Park by both locals and much of the media despite the name change. The Monster Park moniker is confined to the 49ers' front office and to some radio and television broadcasters, all of whom are contractually required to use the corporate sponsor's name whenever referring to the park, just as they were with 3Com.

On August 10, 2007, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the playing field would be renamed Bill Walsh Field in honor of former San Francisco 49ers' coach, the late Bill Walsh, who died on July 30 that year, pending the approval of the city government. However the stadium will retain its current name as is contractually obligated.

Future

Plans were underway to construct a new 68,000-seat stadium at Candlestick Point. However, on November 8, 2006, the 49ers announced that they would abandon their search for a location in San Francisco and begin to actively pursue the idea of building a stadium in Santa Clara, California. As a result, San Francisco withdrew its bid for the 2016 Olympics on November 13, 2006, as its centerpiece stadium was lost. However, 49ers ownership is still willing to hear any offers San Francisco may want to bring, including the Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard.

The Beatles final concert

The Beatles gave their final full concert ever at Candlestick Park on August 29th, 1966. Songs performed at the show were "Rock And Roll Music", "She's A Woman", "If I Needed Someone", "Day Tripper", "Baby's In Black", "I Feel Fine", "Yesterday", "I Wanna Be Your Man", "Nowhere Man", "Paperback Writer", and "Long Tall Sally".

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