Resembling sun-bleached bones of a colossal whale, the white steel ribs of Levi’s Stadium jut 200 feet skyward from the sidewalk on Tasman Street in Santa Clara, where the San Francisco 49ers will kick off their first home game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The $1.3 billion house that Jed York built in the heart of Silicon Valley, three blocks from networking giant Cisco Systems headquarters, is 38 miles south of the football team’s aged and abandoned facility, Candlestick Park, on an isolated, windswept point on San Francisco Bay.
What’s inside the new 1.85 million-square-foot football palace —more than five times the size of the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park — is light years apart from Candlestick, the 54-year-old stadium where the 49ers played ball from 1971 through last year.
With a national Monday Night Football television audience tuned in Dec. 19, 2011, Candlestick suffered two power failures, the second one creating a 30-minute game delay and dimming The City’s image.
Brightening Levi’s Stadium will be a mix of LED and conventional lights, twin scoreboards that total more than 19,000 square feet and 1,162 solar panels generating 515,000 kilowatts of electricity a year, enough to power the Niners’ 10 home games and qualify them as a “net neutral” team.
The new sports and entertainment emporium, already a major Bay Area visitor attraction with a museum and daily tours open to the public, is digitally super-wired; sustainable, with a climate-moderating “green roof” and use of 85 percent recycled water, and gastronomically hip with a spate of vegan and vegetarian offerings, international foods and standards like burgers, oven-fired pizza and nachos.
More than 400 miles of data cable run through the stadium, including 70 miles serving 1,200 Wi-Fi antennas that put every one of the 68,500 seats within 10 feet of a Wi-Fi signal box. Internet bandwidth is 40 gigabytes per second, 40 times more than any known U.S. stadium, the 49ers say.
“I was impressed,” said Kevin Hughes, a former Rohnert Park resident who toured the stadium Thursday with his wife, Pam. “I had a full set of reception bars on my phone,” said Hughes, who used to work in Silicon Valley and now lives near Pomona.
Eyeballing the ground layout from atop the stadium’s Suite Tower, Hughes said he was pleased to see three wide bridges from the parking lots, a big improvement over Candlestick’s lone bridge, a crowd choke point.
Pam Hughes endorsed the Levi’s Stadium mobile app that helps people find their way around the place as well as order food from their seats for express pick-up at a concession stand or in-seat delivery.
“She’d be willing to pay the $5 (delivery fee) not to have to climb over people to get it,” Kevin Hughes said.
Told by their guide Thursday that the app will also identify the restroom with the shortest line, women in the Hughes’ tour group let out a collective murmur of approval. There are 1,135 toilets, 250 more than at Candlestick.
Near the start of the tour, about 40 people settled into the padded, cardinal-red seats in a lower-level club section near the 20-yard line. On the field, a man was laying white stripes on the emerald turf, every one of its Bandera Bermuda blades of grass seemingly in place.
The old and new
Side-by-side comparison of the San Francisco 49ers’ new home in Santa Clara versus the one they left behind in San Francisco:
Candlestick Park; Levi's Stadium
Year opened: 1960; 2014
Cost to build: $32 million; $1.3 billion
Seating capacity: 69,900; 68,500*
Suites: 94; 176
Stadium square footage: 985,000; 1,850,000
Average concourse width (feet): 19; 63
Scoreboard square footage: 1,296; 19,000
Elevators: 4; 25
Escalators: 6; 38
Toilets: 885; 1,135
Parking spaces: 18,000; about 30,000
*With room to expand
Source: San Francisco 49ers 2014 Media Guide
Tale of three stadiums
Opened in 1925 in southeast corner of Golden Gate Park; renovated 1989-90
Cost $300,000 ($4 million in 2014 dollars)
Seating capacity nearly 60,000
Founding home of San Francisco 49ers in 1946; team moved to Candlestick Park in 1971.
In their finale at Kezar, the 49ers lost the 1970 NFC Championship Game to the Dallas Cowboys, 17–10, on Jan. 3, 1971, and fans set to tearing the stadium apart looking for souvenirs or with mayhem on their minds.
Opened in 1960 as the home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team.
Cost $15 million ($120 million in current dollars)
Seating capacity nearly 70,000
49ers moved into stadium in 1971; played final game Dec. 23, 2013
Hosted eight National Football Conference championship games, four won by Niners, the first in 1982 decided by 'The Catch,' Dwight Clark's touchdown reception from Joe Montana.
Opened in 2014 in Santa Clara, 38 miles south of Candlestick Park
Cost $1.3 billion
Seating capacity 68,500 with ability to expand
First 49ers game Sunday; preseason match against Denver Broncos at 1 p.m.
Features digital, sustainable and gastronomical advances, including a stadium mobile app, rooftop garden for insulation and 32 vegan menu items.