'49er fever' dampening stadium resistance in SC

The George S. Halas Trophy, given to the winner of the NFC, is displayed between helmets of the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants during a news conference at the 49ers' NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. The 49ers host the Giants on Sunday, Jan. 22, in the NFC championship. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

January 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
49ers fans are fired up about Sunday's playoff game, although not everybody is drinking the red and gold Kool-Aid. The grassroots group "Santa Clara Plays Fair" wants to put the proposed billion-dollar stadium on the ballot.

There are a lot of conflicting emotions building up in Santa Clara. There is '49er fever' as the team heads to the NFC Championship game on Sunday, but on Wednesday, a group of citizens were at city hall to wrap up a petition drive to block construction of a new 49er stadium in their town.

The petition signatures were turned in one day ahead of Thursday's deadline. The organizers had to find 10 percent of the voters and over a 30-day period, they collected close to 11,000 signatures. "It's been a lot of hard work. We've had hundreds of volunteers that have stepped forward," Deborah Bress told ABC7. "We've had a lot of people that are just as passionate about this as we are."

What stadium opponents were not planning on was the Niners getting to the playoffs and the team fever that Sunday's game is generating. "If you just walk around, the buzz, everyone's been so excited. No one's seen this excitement for the last 8, 9 years. So, it's great. It'll be tough for them to oppose the measure," said Mike Kelley, a season ticketholder.

It is an offense that will be tough for critics to overcome. "With everything going on, it kind of boosts the emphasis on the stadium, to bring it over here, you know, have more fans and everything," 49er fan Jessica Cole said. However, supporters of the Santa Clara Plays Fair are not done making their case that residents should have a second chance to consider the stadium project.

"The next step is for the Stadium Authority to just decide whether they're going to rescind this or they're going to put it out for the voters," Bress said. "So, we take one day at a time and one step at a time."

The bigger challenge now is finding tickets for Sunday's matchup with the New York Giants. Season ticketholders had first crack at unsold tickets at 10 a.m. by going online, but those tickets were snapped up in seconds.

"I had the page open. Refreshed. Finally at 10:00, kept refreshing. Popped open for the opportunity to buy the tickets. Selected one ticket, at any price... No go," Patrick Manansala recalled. Tickets are now re-selling on other sites now for as much as $2,000.

The counting and verification of petition signatures is underway, a process that could take at least two days and possibly as long as two weeks if there are any complications. In the meantime, the San Francisco 49ers are one game away from playing in the Super Bowl and one petition drive away from getting a new stadium.