SANTA CLARA — Jed York stuck a gold shovel in the ground, planted his right foot on top and took a ceremonial step to plant the San Francisco 49ers — and the NFL — into Silicon Valley.
So long, San Francisco.
Under clear skies and a setting sun behind the mountains towering in the distance, the 49ers CEO and Santa Clara leaders made history at 6:53 p.m. local time, touching off a confetti-filled and champagne-flowing celebration on the future 50-yard line that took parts of three decades to make happen.
"I see a team building with a shovel in one hand and a sword in the other," a loud and proud 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh declared to a crowd of about 3,000 fans, team executives and past and present players.
The move some 40 miles south of Candlestick Park sets the stage for the NFL's debut in the technology-rich region.
York hopes to open the stadium for the 2014 season — with strong incentives for builders to meet the deadline — and bid for the Super Bowl in 2016 and 2017 with hopes of landing one. The $1.2 billion project calls for a 68,500-seat stadium featuring 165 luxury suites, 9,000 club seats and even a green roof-top deck that includes solar panels and harvested herbs for some on-site food preparation.
"I want this to be a showcase of technology that enhances the game experience," York said. "And I want it to be something unique to Northern California."
The makeshift football field, stage and suit-and-tie ball was stuck in the middle of what has been a gigantic construction zone for months.
A sign advertising the franchise's "new home" welcomed guests on a paved path surrounded by dirt, and oversized inflatables of a 49ers helmet and football — with the official signature of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — stacked at least a story high. Cranes and chain-link fences still surround the team's adjacent facility, and a news helicopter hovered overhead.