The 49ers say Thursday's vote by the NFL owners was a long-awaited and critical piece of the stadium deal. 49ers owner Jed York is now talking groundbreaking and he says he is expecting one soon.
"This is obviously an unprecedented day for the San Francisco 49ers and this is a very big vote of confidence from the league and it obviously shows how important it is to get new stadiums built in California," team owner Jed York told ABC7.
The $1 billion stadium plan already has $850 million lined up from bank loans. The NFL contribution is the second highest in league history and more than Santa Clara city leaders had hoped to secure.
"We were looking at $150 million. Now, we are looking at $200 million. This goes to show the confidence in the brand of the 49ers, the most storied franchise in NFL history, and their excitement about being here in Silicon Valley," Santa Clara Jamie Matthews said.
Pre-construction work can be seen taking place at the stadium site. The plans call for a 68,000-seat state of the art facility, but opponents say Santa Clara residents were misled about stadium financing, and they are trying to force the issue back to voters.
"If it's such a great deal, why did they not find private investors to buy it? Why are they not owning it? Why is it coming on the city of Santa Clara? This entire scheme has been a bait and switch," said stadium opponent Deborah Brest.
Many 49er fans, though, are cheering the progress that is moving the ball down field. "There is quite a bit of equipment coing our way. So, it looks like they're pretty well moving forward and we're really happy to see that," season ticketholder Fred Santillan told ABC7.
York said Thursday that the Niners will definitely be playing in Santa Clara by 2015 and perhaps as early as 2014. The NFL's announcement signals there is no turning back and the move south will involve emotions and diplomacy. "Even if we aren't playing in the city of San Francisco, we will always be the San Francisco 49ers," York said. "And we will find great creative ways to work together and make sure that we're a part of the fabric of San Francisco."
He added that the $200 million does not come with any strings that would make this joint stadium with the Oakland Raiders, be he said the league is encouraging those discussions which are taking place.