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Monday night blackouts intensify talk of new 49ers stadium

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blackouts that left Candlestick Park in the gloom during a much-anticipated "Monday Night Football" matchup also dimmed the spotlight that otherwise would have been shining on the 49ers after their 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rather than focusing on the team's success, talk turned Tuesday to the many failings of the 51-year-old stadium and the 49ers' plan to move outside of the city limits and build a new stadium in nearby Santa Clara by 2015.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee called the incident a "national embarrassment."

The outages even gave the hated crosstown rivals an opportunity to be magnanimous. The Oakland Raiders told the 49ers and the NFL they were prepared to make their stadium available to finish the game Monday night -- or whenever they might have deemed appropriate.

The San Francisco Police Department said it never discussed evacuating the sold-out stadium, even though the blackouts conjured nationally televised images of World Series fans streaming out of Candlestick immediately after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

"Any decision to end the game would've come from the NFL," Sgt. Mike Andraychak said.

Andraychak said officers were investigating an unrelated bomb threat when the first blackout occurred at 5:20 p.m. PT, delaying the start of the game. He said three people who ran onto the field during the second blackout were arrested. There also were a handful of public intoxication and battery arrests that are usual for games.

In the end, the NFL let the game play on at Candlestick on Monday night. But the questions over the 49ers' future home intensified.

For the immediate future, the NFL and 49ers say they are confident the problem won't recur and that Candlestick can host a playoff game next month.

"We're not concerned," 49ers spokesman Steve Weakland said. "We certainly don't want it to happen again, and we will do everything we can to find out how it happened and why it happened."

Lee ordered the fire department and San Francisco Public Utility Commission to investigate. The California Public Utility Commission also has joined the investigation, which includes Pacific Gas & Electric officials.

PG&E said the first outage was caused when a spice in distribution wires outside the stadium failed and the resulting split fell to the ground. The utility said it took several minutes for the backup power to start, accounting for the delay. The cause of the second outage is still under investigation.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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