By Lee Foster
The 49ers new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is one of the loveliest palaces to sport ever built. It is now open for operation, with football as the main annual attraction, but hockey, wrestlemania, and concerts are also on the agenda. Maybe the new stadium’s existence will be a tipping element in the bid by the Bay Area for the 2024 Olympics.
Anyone in the public can experience a $25/two-hour tour of the facility, which includes the 49ers Museum, showing the team’s five famous Super Bowl trophies. Visitors can enjoy upscale sports bar fine dining all year at celebrity chef Michael Mina’s on-premises restaurant Bourbon Steak & Pub.
The numbers, superlatives, and tech innovations related to the new stadium are impressive.
An estimated $1.3 billion was invested, reportedly without a cent of Santa Clara taxpayer money. All 68,500 seats were successfully licensed at tens-of-thousands-of-dollars each, including various “club” clusters of seats with special food, drink, and entertainment facilities. Getting a seat license is step one. The official sale site for seat licenses is on the Levi’s Stadium website (see below). Owning a seat license allows you to buy a season ticket at additional thousands. You can use or sell your seat ticket. Peruse the official NFL ticket exchange site (see below) or a third-party selling site such as StubHub and put in a game day to get a sense of the actual sticker shock selling price now for a 49er ticket. You’ll come away convinced that prosperity abounds for at least a sizable segment of our society. 49er football has definitely gone upscale.
Anyone visiting the Levi’s Stadium for a game day event or in a quieter moment should allow an hour for the 49ers Museum Presented by Sony. Begin the visit with a look at an 18-minute movie that recalls with historic footage the legendary era of the 1980s and early 90s when San Francisco dominated national football and won an incredible five Super Bowls. The movie catalogs, with now-Senator then-city-Supervisor Diane Feinstein as narrator, how this glorious sports era helped pull a depressed city forward after the tragic murder of Mayor George Moscone and gay Supervisor Harvey Milk. After the movie, allow time in the museum to peruse the treasure trove of 49ers memorabilia.
The fan experience in the new stadium will be outstanding. The intimacy created by the steep vertical rise in the structure makes every seat a good view. The higher the seat, the easier it is to see play development, which is why the Press boxes are at the top level of the stadium. You can order food for pickup at a nearby express line or delivered right to your seat, using your phone and the free downloadable Levi Stadium app from the iTunes or Google app stores. The big LED screens at the stadium ends are Silicon Valley state-of-the-art. Wifi is superfast. The “12th man” effect of fan noise is deliberately magnified in the stadium design, possibly emphasizing home field advantage, and challenging Seattle’s claim to have the noisiest stadium. The facility itself has forwarding-looking design elements that won it environmental architectural awards, known as LEED’s gold certification. Innovations include a “living” rooftop garden that collects rain and provides insulation, plus enough solar cells that the stadium, on an annualized basis, actually pumps as much electricity into the grid infrastructure as it draws out for football and other spectacles, including night lights.
Getting to and from the stadium for a game will be easier than in the chokehold earlier era of Candlestick, which had highly limited freeway access. The new facility has numerous roadway approaches, plus some light-rail public transportation. There are 25,000 parking spots at the stadium and its nearby partner facilities, including the California’s Great America amusement park, which will close for game days to open its vast parking resource. Great America, immediately adjacent to the new stadium, hosts at its Great American Pavilion facility a Red Zone Rally game day extravaganza with food and drink, entertainment, alumni football players and 49ers Gold Rush cheerleaders, for the fan that wants a tailgate party, but would like to leave the details to others. Patrons of the party can also ride the Flight Deck roller coaster thrill ride if their adrenalin for the football event is not already sufficiently pumped. The parking lot at Levi’s Stadium will also allow traditional tailgate festivities.
Three major hotels within walking distance of the stadium will do a booming business during game days and offer fans a readily available overnight option (with easy parking). The hotels are the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, Marriott Santa Clara, and Hilton Santa Clara. Each has its sports bar scene, such as Characters at the Marriott, and its fine-dining cutting edge restaurant. Executive Chef Jonathan Hall at the Parcel 104 restaurant in the Marriott has a farm-to-fork intimacy relationship with numerous regional farmers. Chef Martin Alcala at the Hyatt can provide you with liquid-nitrogen-frozen ice cream whose crystals have unsurpassed smoothness. The Hilton chef opens up the front parking area for a buffet tailgate party each game day. Parking and partying may be available to fans who are not overnighting, so check with each property for details. The 49ers player hotel is the Marriott.
The big worldwide public exposure day for the new Levi’s Stadium will be February 7, 2016, when Levi’s Stadium hosts the landmark 50th Super Bowl. 49er fans are hoping that Super Bowl game day will feature the home team, but that honor needs to be earned.
Santa Clara’s New Levi’s Stadium: If You Go
The local tourism entity guiding area travel information to Santa Clara is http://www.santaclara.org. The site includes game day packages from hotels.
The Levi’s Stadium official site is at http://www.levistadium.com.
49er Football info is at http://www.49ers.com/.
The official NFL ticket exchange for 49ers ticket purchases is at http://www.ticketexchangebyticketmaster.com/NFL/san-francisco-49ers-tickets/.
One third party vendor of 49ers football tickets is StubHub at http://www.stubhub.com/san-francisco-49ers-tickets/.
(This article will appear in one of Lee Foster’s new books for Spring 2016, which will be The 100 Top San Francisco/Bay Area Travel Experiences and The 100 Top Northern California Travel Experiences (Beyond the San Francisco/Bay Area). These projects will appear as printed books, ebooks, websites, articles, photos, and videos.)