The 49ers want a new Santa Clara stadium to be the iconic feature of Silicon Valley the way the Golden Gate Bridge or Coit Tower represents San Francisco, according to newly promoted chief operating officer Paraag Marathe. "This building - we want it to be the physical manifestation of Silicon Valley," he said.
Marathe is best known as the team's lead contract negotiator and salary-cap manager, and he will continue those responsibilities under his new title. Marathe also has taken a large role in the 49ers' top project - building a 68,000-seat stadium across from team headquarters in Santa Clara.
Meeting with reporters Friday, Marathe said the main focus over the next two years or so will be securing sponsorship deals, which the team will depend on to cover a large chunk of the $937 million price tag.
Sponsorships, especially a naming-rights deal, have the potential to fetch huge amounts. Farmers Insurance recently pledged to spend upwards of $700 million to have its name splashed across a 68,000-seat stadium that AEG plans to build next to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Marathe said he's been "pleasantly encouraged" by conversations he's had with Silicon Valley businesses. "We've had real, material discussions with people as it relates to the new stadium," he said. "And it's been really encouraging. It really has been."
The 49ers aspire to make their stadium the most technologically advanced in the league, and that is part of the sales pitch to potential sponsors. "The DNA of the building is going to be part Cisco, part Google, part Facebook, part HP - all of those things," Marathe said. "So it has to be the representation of that. And so I think by virtue of that, a lot of these companies are going to be, hopefully, interested in helping that become a reality."
* The current labor turmoil means there are a number of scenarios as far as when free agency will occur, whether there will be a rookie salary cap, etc. Marathe said the 49ers are prepared for all of them. "Whatever happens, whichever path we have to go down, the league goes down, we're prepared for it," he said. "We don't know what it's going to look like. But you've got to be prepared for every scenario."
â€¢ Marathe said he'll be meeting this week in Indianapolis with many of the agents who represent 49ers players. "A lot of it is relationship building more than anything else," he said. Marathe declined to talk about any dealings with Alex Smith's agent Tom Condon. "I don't want to go into that," he said. "Nothing's real until it's real." Yesterday Smith's agent, Tom Condon, said he has not has serious discussions with the team over extending Smith.
-- Matt Barrows