NFL owners approved a $200 million loan on Thursday to help the San Francisco 49ers build a new stadium in Santa Clara.

In December, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority unanimously approved an $850 million construction loan for the stadium, which will cost approximately $1.02 billion. The rest of the cost will be covered by a hotel tax and Santa Clara's redevelopment funds.

With Thursday's loan from the NFL, the official groundbreaking could happen as early as the first quarter of this year.

"With the NFL's muscle now behind the new stadium, we are moving forward," said Jed York, CEO of the 49ers. "I expect an official groundbreaking ceremony very soon. Get your hard hats ready; we are embarking on the path to the next generation of 49ers football."

The 49ers' headquarters and training facility are currently located in Santa Clara. The team currently plays its home games at Candlestick Park, which was built in 1958. It's located on the western shore of the San Francisco Bay and has been home to the team since 1971.

The 1.85 million square foot facility will seat approximately 68,500 and feature an expected 165 luxury suites and 9,000 club seats.

The 49ers are the first franchise to receive support from the so-called "new stadium fund" that was crafted in the league's new collective bargaining agreement.

"Today's vote is an important milestone for the 49ers and their fans," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "It is a solid endorsement that adds to the strong support of the South Bay community. This step will allow the 49ers to move forward toward making the dream of a new stadium a reality."

The new stadium is expected to be built by 2015.