49ers celebrate stadium groundbreaking

April 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The 49ers celebrated the groundbreaking for construction on their new stadium in Santa Clara Thursday, but not everyone considers the stadium deal a victory.

It's a day when a construction site represents a dream. To some, this vision is Silicon Valley's newest superstar.

"What does Silicon Valley have? It is going to have an iconic building here that defines the valley. Everyone is going to know where Silicon Valley is because of this stadium," Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews said.

The $1.2 billion 49er stadium is one of California's biggest construction projects. The project superintendent executing the initial game plan already sounds like a coach.

"It's a challenge everyday to come out and put together a team, we're trying to score a touchdown every day, just like a football team," Mike Holthouse of Ghilotti Construction Company said.

A touchdown means the stadium is ready for the 2014 season. There is a $6 million construction penalty for every game it is delivered late.

For now, even drivers are giving the traffic headaches a pass.

"All the drivers seem to be happy because they wave at us, they're smiling and they're giving us the thumps up," Tony Ochoa said.

The state-of-the-art stadium will be a technological power house, which is a far cry from Candlestick Park -- the oldest unrenovated stadium in the NFL.

"Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, all those guys, they left their mark on that field, so I think it'll be great for us to leave our mark on this field," 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said.

The team meantime, insists though the location is changing, the name and the focus will not.

"I realize that this is a bittersweet for a lot of people, but I want to thank Mayor Lee for making sure 49ers and the city of San Francisco have a great relationship and we are going to be the San Francisco 49ers forever," 49ers CEO Jed York said.

"The team includes the city of San Francisco, the city of Santa Clara, the peninsula, the Bay Area, Northern California, the great state of California," 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Less than a mile from the site, neighbor Michael Arcangel is worried about the game day crowds that could invade his quiet neighborhood.

"Traffic, garbage, every game day is going to be a fight or something like that and hopefully they don't trash the whole place," Arcangel said.

But there are those still concerned with this project. A group opposing the stadium on issues of voter rights and taxpayer money calls the groundbreaking a sad day. But those who live near the new stadium say this is a challenge they're ready for.

"Lot of concerns about the congestion associated with this, but I think the residents of Santa Clara are smart enough to see the bigger picture," Santa Clara resident Steve Lee said.

Part of the big picture, he's referring to, are the more than 1,000 construction jobs created by this project and the fact that Yorks are trying to host Super Bowl L [50] in Santa Clara.

Once the 49ers abandon Candlestick Park the Lennar Corporation will replace the stadium with 6,000 homes. The general plan also includes office, retail, research faculties, and open space.

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