Goodbye, cold, grungy Candlestick Park. Hello, high-tech, shiny new Levi’s Stadium.
Fifty-four years after $32 million Candlestick Park opened, the 49ers are building a $1.2 billion showcase of a stadium that is almost twice as big, wired to the hilt and opening its doors just in time to host Super Bowl L in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Arriving just five years after the debut of Cowboys Stadium, Jerry Jones’ $1 billion showcase for his club, the 49ers are aiming to redefine state of the art, as team officials made clear on a recent tour.
“If you’re a fan and you go to Candlestick, then you will really appreciate this new stadium,” said project executive Jack Hill, standing on the building’s 200-foot-high roof, gazing out at the southern tip of San Francisco Bay. “It’s going to be the crowning glory of the NFL.”
The airy, open stadium had an intimate feel. With the largest lower bowl in the league, the 68,500 fans are close to the action. And that closeness is mutual. When players burst through the blowing smoke and blasting music on game day, they will be able to make eye contact with every seat, even the corner nosebleeds that are dwarfed beneath some of the largest high-definition Jumbotrons in the league.
“This stadium is tremendous for the team. It helps strengthen the brand, because the one negative thing about the 49ers has always been Candlestick Park,” said University of Southern California professor Jeff Fellenzer, who teaches sports, business and media.
The steep construction bills are being paid by $800 million in seat and luxury box sales, along with a 20-year, $220 million naming-rights agreement with Levi Strauss and Co. that was announced May 8, clinching a partnership with the company that added copper rivets to denim pants 150 years ago to create the first blue jeans for California’s rugged gold miners, the so-called 49ers. A few weeks later, the NFL chose the stadium for the 2016 Super Bowl.
The 49ers also are trying to make their building the most environmentally friendly stadium in the league. Solar panels will gather enough power so that even on Super Bowl Sunday they won’t need to pull electricity from the grid. The grass field and toilets use recycled water, the turf is geothermic, a bicycle valet and racks will welcome cyclists who can pedal in using bike paths from miles around, even from the airport.
Today, the 50-yard line is loaded with shipping containers, trucks and port-a-potties to support the 1,100 construction workers buzzing around the site. But the grass is already growing on a turf farm about 90 minutes away, and should be rolled out next March.
In keeping with its Silicon Valley base of support, the 49ers’ assumption is that fans will be carrying smartphones, so the place will be entirely cash-free and ticketless. Software engineers are already building apps for cellphones that will allow fans to order food, watch instant replays, listen to play-by-play and check bathroom lines from their seats.