April 19, 2012 will go down as one of the most significant dates in the illustrious history of the San Francisco 49ers and in Bay Area sports lore as we know it.
On top of its five Super Bowl Championships, the franchise rolled out a large red carpet to celebrate co-chairs Dr. John and Denise DeBartolo York along with their son, CEO Jed York, and Santa Clara city officials digging gold shovels into a mound of red dirt to signify the franchise breaking ground on a New Santa Clara Stadium site.
At the exact spot of the stadium’s 50-yard line, the York family and city officials broke ground on the stadium site officially bringing the 49ers to the South Bay for their new home on Sundays.
“I think it’s a testament to everybody that’s worked on this project,” said York. “It’s a statement that this is the first professional football stadium to be built in California in over 50 years.”
The joyous groundbreaking ceremony for one of the world’s soon-to-be premier entertainment venues was an opportunity for the team to formally celebrate nearly two decades of diligent work to get the stadium project off the ground, literally.
But it doesn’t change the identity of the proud franchise.
“We’ll always be the San Francisco 49ers,” York declared at the end of the hour-long ceremony that featured numerous guest speakers, including head coach Jim Harbaugh and team leaders
In addition to team ownership, 49ers front office members, coaches and players were on hand to take in the festivities taking place across the street from the team’s Santa Clara headquarters that were built in 1988.
Also, Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, former Mayor Patricia Mahan, Santa Clara City Council members, community leaders and stadium supporters took part in celebrating the milestone in 49ers history.
It was especially pleasing for Mahan, who helped steer the project in 2006 by taking NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on a tour of the city to help the project get started.
“I think this is the first time I felt excited about it, because it is real now. This is where it’s going to be,” Mahan said.
The former Mayor also echoed the sentiments of York, who continually praised the strong working relationship between the team and the city of Santa Clara in making their shared vision a reality.
“We did spend a lot of time on it, every detail along the way we wanted to make sure it was an open process,” Mahan said. “All the meetings were worth it. What’s gratifying to me is that every obstacle that came up, the city was always able to work with the 49ers in a very collaborative way.”
Similarly, York looked at the celebration as a sign of great teamwork.
“I think it’s a big achievement for the entire team, and like anything, nothing comes without hard work,” York said. “Nothing comes without teamwork and that’s how we do things. We do things as a team and we’re going to celebrate this as a team.”
Set to open in August of 2014, the New Santa Clara Stadium can officially begin construction work now that the shovels were placed in the ground for 1,500 guests to witness personally and the numerous Faithful viewing a live webcast on 49ers.com.
The event welcomed its distinguished guests with a large red carpet, adjacent to a miniature turf football field complete with the exact 49ers logos painted on the team’s playing field. Inside the gated walls, decorated with new stadium renderings, guests were able to see performances from the 49ers Gold Rush and Niner Noise drum line before memorable speeches from speakers on hand.
One guest speaker, Goodell, shared a congratulatory message to the event through a pre-recorded video message. “Congratulations to the team and city leadership for getting it done,” he said.
After a presentation from Mayor Matthews, who thanked the numerous city council members and volunteers who made this day a reality, Willis and Davis were called up to the stage to share insight from a player’s perspective.
“To be here with you all is truly a blessing,” Willis said. “We’re going to make this thing tremendous when it’s all said and done.”
Davis was asked by emcee Ted Robinson to recreate his famous “Vernon Post” touchdown play which defeated the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. The 49ers tight end seemed willing to do it, even waving to his quarterback
Harbaugh was next to take the stage, giving a speech that rivaled one of his pre-game talks to his team.
“Attack this endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind,” Harbaugh went on to say.
The NFL Coach of the Year’s comments were followed by York, who gave a passionate speech on the process it took to break ground on a new stadium. York also thanked his parents for their hard work on the project and made a declaration to the team’s passionate fan base:
“We’re going to go after a lot of Super Bowls,” York said to a loud applause. “It worked out pretty well for the 49ers the last time it was here.”
The 49ers won Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium in 1985 and could soon be competing on the biggest stage if the team is able to build on last year’s NFC Championship game appearance.
The players themselves are eager about next season, but are also excited about the future beyond 2012.
“It’s exciting to see that they’re starting the process, now we have something to look forward to,” Davis said. “Something promising, something historic – it’s going to be amazing. You couldn’t pick a better time to be a 49er.”
Willis joked that he wanted to make the first tackle in the new stadium.
“I’m really looking forward to just starting something new,” the All-Pro linebacker explained. “Candlestick has so much tradition there and it will be missed, but to be able to start something new will be awesome.”
Located in Great America’s overflow parking lot, across from the team’s current Santa Clara headquarters, the 1.85-million square foot facility expects to host 68,500 at capacity on gamedays, with the potential to expand to up to 75,000. With groundbreaking now complete, the stadium is set to become a landmark for the Silicon Valley community while offering one of the most environmentally-friendly and technologically-savvy experiences for fans of the 49ers and the National Football League.
“Our organization has put so much work going in to this stadium and it’s very exciting to have a day like to today to actually break ground,” said Pro Bowl left tackle
Prior to breaking ground, the stadium’s make-ready work began weeks after the 2011 season concluded. The façade of the team’s Santa Clara headquarters already looks drastically different.
However, it’s no concern to Harbaugh, the NFL’s Coach of the Year, who referred to the stadium site as “A cathedral of football.”
“It’s magnificent,” Harbaugh said earlier this week. “It illustrates everything a team is about: working together and everybody doing their part to build something great. That’s what I think about when I see it.
“In the meantime, we’re a football oasis inside a construction zone. That’s exciting, too.”
For two more seasons the 49ers will host games at Candlestick Park, the team’s home for the past 43 years, prior to a 24-year run in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium.
Several of the players who made Candlestick Park one of the most feared places to play were also on hand for the team’s prestigious event.
Two-time Super Bowl winning head coach George Seifert opened up about his feelings on the team’s new home.
“It’s a super exciting time,” Seifert said. “I grew up as a kid with Kezar Stadium and as a coach with Candlestick. We move on in life and this is going to be such a great facility and such a neat thing for the community and certainly all of the Bay Area.
“It’s kind of like the perfect storm in a positive way.”
The team envisions the facility not only showcasing professional football, but has the capability to host numerous events such as soccer, motorsports, concerts, civic events and even Super Bowls.
Located by numerous highways and public transit options, the stadium will offer 49ers Faithful the ultimate viewing experience for their beloved football team.
And, as York pointed out, the stadium will have 40,000 parking spaces and more importantly, twice as many women’s restrooms.
More information on the team’s stadium project can be found at www.newsantaclarastadium.com, which includes a live construction camera for fans to stay abreast of the project developments.
HISTORY OF THE NEW SANTA CLARA STADIUM
The San Francisco 49ers franchise is one of the most storied in all of professional sports. The building of the new Santa Clara Stadium is another major triumph. It is a facility that will celebrate the 49ers past, present and future. In two short years, the 49ers will play in one of the world’s best outdoor sports and entertainment venues. Take a look back at the events over the last two years that made this dream a reality.
Measure J is overwhelmingly approved by 60% of Santa Clara voters, signaling the first step in making the new stadium a reality.
Centerplate, one of the nation’s leading food and beverage operators, is selected to provide comprehensive services at the new stadium.
HNTB, the stadium architect, unveils its updated design for the venue and reveals a spectacular model of the new stadium.
The $2.5 million Preview Center opens to showcase the amenities, sightlines and “look and feel” of the stadium for suite and season ticket holders.
The Santa Clara Stadium Authority approves an $850 million construction loan for the project. Site preparation begins one month later.
Legends Sales and Marketing, the company selected to manage and sell Stadium Builders Licenses (SBLs), as well as suite and seats at the new stadium, begins to market Club Seats to current season ticket holders.
During Super Bowl XLVI week, NFL Owners vote to provide $200 million dollars for the 49ers stadium project, the largest amount of money allocated to a team in league history.
APRIL 19, 2012
Official groundbreaking ceremony takes place at the site of the future home of the San Francisco 49ers.