In a widely expected move, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority has approved an $878 million construction contract to build the new 49ers football stadium.

By a 5-1 vote Tuesday night, the stadium authority -- composed of the seven City Council members -- approved hiring Turner-Devcon to build the stadium, which is now scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2014 season.

Councilman Will Kennedy voted no, saying he thought the authority should wait until a legal challenge regarding a referendum over a loan approval vote on the stadium is settled. Councilwoman Jamie McLeod was ill and not present at the meeting.

The authority also approved the hiring of Hathaway Consulting as the project manager.

Under the terms of the contract with Turner-Devon, construction on the 68,500-seat stadium is scheduled to begin by July 1, six months earlier than expected. The entire project is projected to cost about $1 billion.

The deal includes large fines -- $6 million per game -- if the stadium is not done by the start of the 2014 football season. But Turner-Devcon will receive a $5 million bonus if the project is finished ahead of schedule.

Turner Construction is a huge New York City-based firm that has three Bay Area offices, including one in San Jose. It has worked on NFL stadium projects for the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles. Devcon Construction is much smaller and based in Milpitas.

Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-920-5002.