|Courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers|
|The 49ers' proposed stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., is scheduled to open in 2014 and would seat 68,500 fans.|
The 49ers moved one step closer to leaving their longtime San Francisco home after residents in the Silicon Valley city of Santa Clara, Calif., voted in favor of a new stadium for the NFL team.
The 49ers have played in San Francisco since the franchise was established more than 60 years ago and have called Candlestick Park their home since the early 1970s. They have won five Super Bowl titles during their stay.
By approving Measure J, voters signed off on a plan by the team to build the 68,500-seat stadium in Santa Clara, about 45 miles south of San Francisco. Construction would begin in 2012, and the team would retain the name "San Francisco 49ers."
"For almost a decade and a half, the San Francisco 49ers and our faithful fans have dreamed about playing at home in a world-class stadium, and now those dreams are closer to reality," 49ers president and CEO Jed York said in a statement released by the team. "We can now proceed with our plans to build the premier, open-air sports and entertainment venue in the world.â
The team still needs to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to finance the project, but the ballot measure was considered a key hurdle to the quest to build a state-of-the-art stadium.
"It makes it a lot easier to get a stadium built in Northern California," York told the San Jose Mercury News. "It's now full go-ahead in Santa Clara."
Under preliminary terms with the team, the city and area hotels would contribute $114 million to the $937 million project next to a Great America theme park.
Team officials spent almost $4 million in support of Measure J, and current and former players campaigned for the stadium deal.
Opponents in Santa Clara called the economic projections for the stadium overly optimistic and expressed worries about traffic, noise and parking problems, as well as lost public funds.
Momentum toward the Santa Clara site picked up when the 49ers announced four years ago that they had abandoned plans to build a new stadium and retail complex on Candlestick Point.
The new stadium in Santa Clara would be completed by the 2014 football season and replace Candlestick Park, which 49ers officials have complained is rundown and difficult to maintain.
âWe recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done, and it is now our responsibility to finish the job by delivering on the remainder of the plan," York said in the statement. "But, the best fans in the NFL deserve the best stadium, and our new home will continue to make them proud to cheer on the San Francisco 49ers for generations to come."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.