SANTA CLARA -- The San Francisco 49ers' new stadium has landed its first event: a college football bowl game.
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which has been played annually at AT&T Park in San Francisco since 2002, will move to the new Santa Clara stadium after it opens in 2014. It's the second time the South Bay has yanked away a San Francisco football institution, though the bowl game hardly carries the prestige of the 49ers.
The late-December game will feature a Pac-12 team and, organizers hope, an opponent from a major conference such as the Big Ten, Big 12 or ACC.
"We're going to make sure this is one of the greatest bowls that's out there," 49ers CEO Jed York said at a press conference Tuesday in the shadow of the rising stadium. Seven months after the ground-breaking, construction is moving so quickly that crews are already testing out concourse signs that will point fans to the right section.
As with the team's plan to host a Super Bowl, the college bowl events and team hotels will still be headquartered in San Francisco to take advantage of the city's tourism reputation. That will cut into the game's economic stimulus -- an estimated $13 million a year -- for Santa Clara. Mayor Jamie Matthews was still excited, noting the city has been looking for a college football replacement since Santa Clara University axed its Broncos football program two decades ago.
Bowl executive director Gary Cavalli said the decision to move the actual game was based largely on the desire to earn more ticket revenue, which will allow organizers to increase their $1.7 million purse for participating schools and, thus, attract better teams.
"Everyone wants more money," Cavalli said of colleges. "So how do we compete when we have a 40,000-seat stadium (at AT&T Park) and everyone else is in a 60,000- or 70,000-seat stadium?"
Cavalli said the stadium itself should be a draw, particularly to fans who can't afford pricey 49ers tickets. He said Cal and Stanford could be potential participants, noting they would help draw more fans than a team from across the country.
Navy is playing a to-be-determined Pac-12 team in this year's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 29, on ESPN2. Cal, USC and UCLA have previously played in the game, which under previous sponsors was called the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl for its first two years, then the Emerald Bowl until 2010.
It's one of several events -- from concerts to soccer to extreme sports -- that the team and city expect to host at the $1.2 billion stadium during the 355-or-so days a year when the 49ers are not playing there. York said the team will continue to go after other college football games, as well.
Since breaking ground on the 68,500-seat stadium next to Great America in April, crews have installed nearly the entire steel frame and are beginning to work on the "insides" -- things like escalators and steps.
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at twitter.com/rosenberg17.