Candlestick stadium chief stays focused on finale

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 23, 2013 at 7:48 pm •  Published: December 23, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Mike Gay has made the half-hour commute from his city home in San Francisco to Candlestick Park almost daily for 35 years.

Candlestick's long-time stadium chief is working hard to ensure a special send off Monday night while making sure not to get too sentimental as the aging stadium's time comes to a ceremonious close when the 49ers host the Atlanta Falcons.

Nostalgia? Not yet.

Gay has been too busy during The Stick's farewell season to reflect on his decades-long front-row seat for some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. Before Monday night's game, Hall of Famer Steve Young threw passes to Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the crowd roared. Hall of Fame baseball players Willie Mays and Willie McCovey waved to cheering fans.

"It hasn't really sunk in, not just for me, my crew," Gay said while reminiscing as he led a tour through Candlestick last week. "I'll know Monday night. I've probably tried to block it out, I guess, but you hear it every day."

Gay, a stationary engineer who previously worked at a hospital, knows full well how fortunate he has been to have one heck of a behind-the-scenes view of history.

From the daily stresses to the major ones, like racing to react in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 World Series earthquake, and a Monday Night Football power outage two Decembers ago, Gay has seen it all.

Every game weekend, Gay leads a four-hour Friday night walkthrough to check everything from parking lots, the setup of the suites to how bathrooms are functioning.

When asked what he will miss most now, Gay said matter-of-factly, "That's a good question."

"I'll probably miss the preparation of getting ready for a football game," he added.

It was difficult to see the Giants leave for their waterfront AT&T Park in 2000, though Gay didn't miss the tireless 24-hour conversions from baseball to football.

"I missed the team," he said.

He still recalls the major earthquake that hit before Game 3 of the 1989 Bay Bridge World Series, when "our only concern was trying to get everybody out of the stadium" without any way to communicate to all the fans and employees inside Candlestick given the brand-new sound system wasn't yet tied into the generators.

"It held up, it served its purpose," former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. said of the facility.

Gay learned in a hurry to dress for the unpredictable weather, such as those infamous Candlestick swirling winds off the bay that could make for bitter cold days even in the middle of summer. He wears long sleeves to work every day, no matter the season.

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