SANTA CLARA Anyone still doubting the likelihood of a new 49ers stadium need only visit team headquarters. Bulldozers and backhoes have been knocking down walls, laying down pipes and moving dirt in preparation for the 68,500-seat facility planned to go up across the street.
Groundbreaking on the stadium has been pushed up from January 2013 to late spring, raising prospects that the billion-dollar building will be completed in time for the 2014 season, not 2015 as originally planned.
Things also are rolling along a half a mile away at the team's sales office, where $270 million worth of luxury suites have been sold. The 49ers also have begun selling stadium builders licenses a controversial, one-time expense required before purchasing season tickets for approximately 9,000 club seats.
Al Guido of Legends Sales & Marketing, the company hired to market the 49ers' stadium seating, would not say how many club seats the team has sold. However, he said the most premium seats, those for the so-called Legacy Club that require an $80,000 stadium builders license, have nearly sold out on the east side of the stadium, where the 49ers' locker room will be located.
Stadium dollars have been falling into place since the lockout ended in the summer.
In early December, the team secured $850 million in loans from Goldman Sachs, U.S. Bank and Bank of America. Earlier this month, NFL owners agreed to give the 49ers $200 million from the league's revitalized stadium loan program.
In addition, the city of Santa Clara's redevelopment agency will contribute about $40 million, while a hotel tax is expected to kick in another $35 million for the project.
Club seat sales also have begun to bring in revenue.
Most of the seats require a $20,000 to $30,000 stadium builders license, prices that have outraged many longtime fans who have season tickets in the lower bowl of Candlestick Park but who will not be able to afford similar seats in the new stadium.
Reno resident Leonard Bonilla, for example, is part of a group that has had season tickets since the 49ers started playing at Kezar Stadium. When the team moved to Candlestick, Bonilla said, his family got seats in a similar section.
However, those same seats at the 45-yard line, 18 rows up will not be affordable in the new stadium.
"We're working-class people, and we're going to have to give them up," said Bonilla, 70. "They're driving a lot of us old-time, faithful fans right out of the stadium."
The 49ers counter that the most expensive seats represent only a fraction of the seating in the stadium and that season-ticket holders will have opportunities for more affordable seats elsewhere later this year.
"It's truly a wide range of prices and experiences for fans," said chief operating officer Paraag Marathe. "It's a lot of money, but (the most expensive club seats) are less than 1 percent of the stadium. There's 99 percent of the building that isn't that cost."
Prices in the reserved section and the upper bowl of the stadium have not yet been set, although Guido said most of those seats also will require a builders license fee.
Many of those in the lower bowl, he said, likely will cost $4,000 to $8,000. Upper-bowl seats could be $1,000 or $2,000.