National Football League owners threw a Joe Montana-like spiral pass to the San Francisco 49ers Thursday when they approved $200 million in loans for the team's Santa Clara stadium.
The vote is the last piece of the financing puzzle it needed in order to begin construction, according to the team. It comes two months after the team and the city of Santa Clara announced they had received a $850 million loan. Those two figures, plus money from a hotel tax and money from redevelopment funds, add up to the estimated $1 billion it will cost to build the structure.
The 49ers are the first team in the league to tap into a brand new stadium fund that was crafted in the collective bargaining agreement reached with NFL players last year.
"With the NFL’s muscle now behind the new stadium, we are moving forward,” said 49ers President Jed York. “I expect an official ground-breaking ceremony very soon. Get your hard hats ready; we are embarking on the path to the next generation of 49ers football.”
Prep work has already begun on the stadium, which will sit right next to the team's practice facility in Santa Clara.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the vote was an important milestone for the team and its fans.
"It is a solid endorsement that adds to the strong support of the South Bay community. This step will allow the 49ers to move forward toward making the dream of a new stadium a reality," Goodell said.
The nearly 2-million-square-foot facility will seat 68,000 fans and the official ground breaking is still about a year away. The first game is expected to be played in Santa Clara as early as 2014.
"We will definitely be in by 2015,'' York said after the meeting, "with hopes of 2014.''
When he was asked about the potential for a Bay Area Super Bowl, he said the stadium would be a fitting setting for the 50th game which is in 2016.