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Thursday, February 2, 2012
Updating 49ers' stadium, ownership moves

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- The San Francisco 49ers made news Thursday by securing $200 million in stadium financing and adding chief strategy officer Gideon Yu to their ownership team.

Yu, whose hiring in April 2011 foreshadowed good things for the 49ers' stadium efforts, adds technological and financial strength to an ownership team featuring president Jed York and family. Yu's ownership stake will be 1 percent, according to Tim Kawakami.

The 49ers secured NFL approval Thursday on a stadium loan that should allow the team to play there in 2015 at the latest, according to York. The team plans for Yu to oversee technological aspects of the stadium in an effort to outpace gains made in the viewing experience at home.

Securing funding marks the latest victory for York and the 49ers. In the last year or so, the team has hired Jim Harbaugh as head coach, posted a 13-3 record, won a playoff game, secured $850 million in non-NFL loans and, now, added the $200 million league loan toward a stadium project expected to exceed $1 billion in outlays.

York, who was 27 when he took over as team president in late 2008,  has clearly grown as the face of ownership.

"You learn form experience," he said. "You don't over-celebrate the wins and you don't over-mourn the losses. That is on the field, off the field. You learn from the experience and keep going. You know you are in it for the long haul. You can't live and die with every little battle. You want to win everything but you know there is a greater reward to be won."

The funding news means the 49ers are down to their final two or three seasons at Candlestick Park. The new stadium will reside across the street from team headquarters in Santa Clara. York pointed to the team's relationship with Santa Clara as key to seeing through the stadium funding project.

"The vote in Santa Clara won by a large margin, great support in that community," York said. "I think that is really what carried it through."

York's parents and Yu accompanied him to Indianapolis for the vote.

Yu's hiring back in April seemed a bit curious. How many top Silicon Valley power players with high-level stops at Facebook, Yahoo! and YouTube become "chief strategy officer" with NFL teams? Yu made the move because he's a life-long sports fan. He grew up in Tennessee, loving football. The lure of a professional ownership stake can be strong.

"I'm an enormous football fan," Yu said. "We're doing some transformational things for the 49ers right now with the new stadium, with the new coaching staff, with the new front office. To be a part of this generational transformation that is going on here, I couldn't think of anything I'd rather do than this."

More from Yu in a bit. He has big plans for the 49ers' new stadium.