Like thousands of other San Francisco 49ers faithful, Petaluma businessman Dan Libarle feels like a kid on Christmas, anxiously awaiting the team’s first game Sunday at its $1.3 billion present to Bay Area sports fans.
“I’m really excited, looking forward to seeing what it’s all about,” said Libarle, whose tenure rooting for the Red and Gold dates back to the late 1940s at Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park.
There, on plain wooden benches, he watched Minnesota Vikings lineman Jim Marshall’s infamous 66-yard wrong-way run into the Niners end zone for a safety on Oct. 25, 1964. Eighteen years later, Libarle was at Candlestick Park for Dwight Clark’s historic six-yard touchdown catch from Joe Montana on Jan. 10, 1982, that propelled San Francisco to the first of five Super Bowl triumphs, the last being in 1995.
(Much lesser-known football note: The Vikings won that 1964 game, 27-22, on Carl Eller’s return of a fumble caused by Marshall’s quarterback sack.)
Fast-forwarding to Sunday’s football premiere at the stadium sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co. and incorporating the techno-wizardry of Silicon Valley, Libarle said he wants to see “what it takes to get in and out of it,” a decidedly low-tech issue that plagued the stadium’s first athletic event, a Major League Soccer game two weekends ago.
Libarle and his wife, Carol, plan to leave Petaluma at 9 a.m., “just to make sure,” he said, of reaching their seats on the 40-yard line well before the 1 p.m. kickoff against the Denver Broncos.
Fred and Yolanda Vasquez of Windsor plan to leave home by 6:30 a.m., turning their game day into a 12-hour experience since they will wait around for the post-game traffic clot to break up before tackling the 107-mile return trip.
“I think they’ve got some things to work out,” Fred Vasquez said, recalling the chaos of getting out of the golf course parking area adjacent to Levi’s Stadium after the Aug. 2 San Jose Earthquakes soccer match.
The showcase 68,500-seat stadium, already a Bay Area tourist attraction, stands near the south end of San Francisco Bay in Santa Clara, 38 miles beyond Candlestick Park, the 49ers home for 42 years.
Vazquez, who hasn’t missed a Niners home game in 10 years, said he has timed the route — via 580 and 880 through the East Bay — and found it takes only 15 minutes more than the getting through The City en route to the Stick.
There’s a “lot of angst,” Libarle said, attached to the football team’s departure from San Francisco, but it’s also a new chapter in Niners history. Fans were apprehensive about the relocation from Kezar to Candlestick in 1971, moving into a stadium built 11 years earlier for baseball.
“People didn’t know what to expect,” said Libarle, whose family has held season tickets since 1947. “Once they got in there it was fine. It was a great venue.”
But there is a financial sting.
The 49ers have sold more than 60,000 season tickets, each with a one-time-only fee, or personal seat license, ranging from $2,000 to $80,000, plus a ticket price of $85 to $375 per game for 10 games.
“A lot of the old-timers are not going down there because of the cost,” said Libarle, who cut back from 10 season tickets at Candlestick to two in Santa Clara.