With the simple digging in of a gold shovel, San Francisco 49ers officials and local leaders in Santa Clara started a brand new era for football in the Bay Area.

Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Niners new stadium in Santa Clara was a culmination of years of hard work. What started out as having the team’s training facilities in Santa Clara has morphed into a more than billion dollar project that 49ers CEO Jed York calls “a sustainable showcase of technology.”

“This is the first stadium built for a professional football franchise in the state of California in the last 50 years. This might not be the biggest or most expensive stadium but we want to redefine the in-game stadium watching experience for our great fans,” said York. “Santa Clara stood proud and tall and this is just a testament to everyone that has worked so hard to turn this dream into a reality.”

Current Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews was also on hand and from afar, it was easy to see how he felt as he was beaming from ear to ear. “Everyone has a special place and a special connection to this project. This is a day of celebration as we bring an iconic symbol to Silicon Valley,” he said. “We are the home of the San Francisco 49ers!”

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was in mid-season form with a speech that probably resembled some he has given during halftime or after a game as he said “that with a shovel in one hand and a sword in the other, we are a team that is part of building a great cathedral.”

Vernon Davis, Ted Robinson, Patrick Willis

Current players and noteworthy 49ers alums were in attendance for the gala celebration, including tight end Vernon Davis. “I’m excited and can’t wait. When I drove up, I said whoa! There couldn’t be a better time to be a 49er.” All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis echoed those sentiments, saying he “can’t wait to make the first tackle in the new stadium.”

Although it was a day of celebration, York said it was also bittersweet. “We are the San Francisco 49ers and we will always be the San Francisco 49ers. I know some of our fans are disappointed but when they see the stadium, they will see that this is such a great mix of technology, sustainability and being environmentally-friendly while offering our loyal fans the best experience possible.”

Former Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan, who was a key figure in moving the process along despite opposition from many in the city, said the work is not yet done. “Our Santa Clara team made this dream a reality. But now, we want to bring the Super Bowl to Santa Clara in 2016.” York confirmed that the team will be bidding for Super Bowls 50 and 51 and hopes to hear back from the league within the next year.

The total cost of the stadium is $1.2 billion with much of the funding coming from loans the city of Santa Clara has taken out. NFL owners also approved a $200 million loan for the project. There will actually be less total seats than the team currently has at Candlestick (68,500 compared to the current 69,900) but there will also be more than 9,00 club seats. York and 49ers COO Gideon Yu said that they are still working on pricing for seats but that there would be plenty of affordable options for fans. “We want our fans to be as close to the action as possible,” said York. “So we will have the largest lower bowl in the NFL. This will also be the first LEED-certified NFL stadium, but we want it to be functionally green. We will rely on renewable sources, be net neutral to the grid and use local sourcing for our food products.”

The new stadium is on schedule to be ready for the 2014 season.