Barely four years after Santa Clara voters voiced their approval of a measure paving the way for bringing the San Francisco 49ers to the South Bay, the welcome mat is almost out for fans itching to get inside Levi’s Stadium.
The only thing missing is the yard lines painted on the field.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined 49ers brass, as well as representatives from Levi’s Strauss and the City of Santa Clara, for Levi’s Stadium’s formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday morning.
“It’s an important day for us,” Goodell said. “This is the type of infrastructure that’s important to the NFL overall.”
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The $1.2 billion successor to Candlestick Park was originally supposed to cost $937 when Measure J passed in 2010, but the Santa Clara Stadium Authority ended up going a few hundred million dollars over budget in order to add a number of Levi’s Stadium attractions that would "enhance the fan experience."
“I’ve only been to home games at Candlestick, so it will definitely be a different experience for us,” 49ers CEO Jed York said in a Q&A posted on the 49ers website.
Santa Clara voters’ passage of Measure J was the key moment in making the Levi’s Stadium a reality, according to York.
“Getting the public support and a resounding 60-40 victory, that was really when I felt like, ‘OK, this thing has a great chance,” York said. “And then the next big step was securing the financing, the construction financing. The two things that you really need are community support and funding. And those were the two really big pieces of this.”
A group opposing taxpayer subsidies for Levi’s Stadium, called Santa Clara Plays Fair, fought against Measure J, spearheading a campaign to collect more than 5,000 signatures as part of an ultimately unsuccessful effort to get the stadium project proposal back on the ballot after it passed.
Of the billion-plus dollars it cost to build the stadium, none of it came out of the city's general fund, Santa Clara city spokesman Dan Beerman said.
The city’s now-defunct state-funded redevelopment agency did put up $40 million in “seed money to show good faith and to make sure the rest of the funding could come through other means,” Beerman said.
The day's biggest ovation came for those who built the stadium: the 7,800 construction workers.
"It feels great," said Albert, a worker who spoke with NBC Bay Area. "I'm a big fan and it's a dream come true."
Two workers were killed during the Levi's Stadium construction process.
The team announced July 1 that season tickets for the 68,500-seat stadium’s inaugural season had sold out. Personal seat licenses, which fans are required to purchase before buying tickets in certain seats, cost between $2,000 and $80,000 apiece. Individual game tickets cost between $85 and $375. The seat licenses must be renewed each season, for a price of $850 to $3,750 a year, about twice the fee at Candlestick Park.
The first event to be held at Levi’s Stadium won’t be a 49ers game but a Major League Soccer match between the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC. The 49ers will host the first NFL preseason game at the new park on Aug. 17 against the Broncos, with the first regular season game scheduled for Sept. 14 against the Bears, a Sunday night game that will be broadcast on NBC.
Super Bowl 50 will be played at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 7, 2016.