Camp switch leaves everybody a loser

You could blame officials at University of the Pacific for not doing nearly enough to accommodate the 49ers and keep their training camp in Stockton, but the fact is the men now guiding the team weren't really interested in staying there anyway. But what makes Wednesday's announcement that the 49ers are moving their summer camp to team headquarters in Santa Clara a bad decision is that it takes the team away from its fans during the one month each year they could get an up-close, personal look.

Training camp sessions, which begin July 25, will be closed to the public this year because - with that date less than four months away - the team facility hardly could be made ready to accommodate the public in what is now a closed practice facility. That will deprive tens of thousands of fans a chance to get close to the team during the usually relaxed atmosphere of summer sessions.

General manager Terry Donahue said the team will move some practices to undisclosed Bay Area locations to give fans a chance to do that this summer, but it won't be the same as what was available the past two decades. The Niners conducted two open practices each day for four-to-five weeks each of the past five years in Stockton and the 17 previous years when the team's summer camp was in Rocklin.

Donahue said, "This organization is committed to our fans and we want to make sure they have a chance to share in the training camp experience with us. Our facility may not be equipped to hold a large number of fans at this time so we will do something unique and bring the 49ers to the fans. It will give the 49ers faithful in the Bay Area opportunities to see the players up close without having to travel to do so."

Of course, traveling to training camp on a university campus away from the bustle of the Bay Area metropolis was part of the allure of the whole deal of seeing the Niners in raw form as they began to develop a new team each summer. This will also be bad for the team, which will miss the camaraderie of camp atmosphere now that they'll be training year-round in the same place. Training camp in Stockton was a nice diversion for players to get ready and start the serious portion of their football calendar by focusing on early preparation for the grueling season that awaited them.

There will be a lot of upset people in Stockton now that the Niners are bolting after completing just five years of an original 10-year deal. Individuals in the community put millions of dollars toward the project, and now UOP is essentially letting the team walk because it won't do the things necessary to keep the team in town. That's not surprising. Now that the school got its multi-million dollar Pacific Intercollegiate Athletics Center - which was built as part of the deal - the school has shown little commitment to keeping the camp in town.

Donahue said, "Due to a confidentiality agreement, I am unable to expand on the reasons for our departure, but I can say that there were a number of difficulties that we could no longer live with that prompted this decision."

The 49ers would have found a way to "live with" the remaining five years of their agreement in Stockton had UOP committed itself to accommodating the team and keeping the camp facility up to standard for the team's needs. Instead, UOP had its own agenda, and by inaction let the team know that the Niners had worn out their welcome on the school's campus.

So the team leaves, and everyone's left a loser. The city of Stockton. Niners fans. And, of course, the 49ers themselves.




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