SANTA CLARA — Seattle beware and Bay Area sports fans take notice. Levi’s Stadium is a winner.
Saturday was a historic night and the Earthquakes and the 49ers teamed up to provide the fans with a memorable experience. Years from, we can all say “I was there on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014.”
The vibe was unique for those who witnessed the San Jose Earthquakes’ 1-0 win against the Seattle Sounders in the inaugural game at Levi’s Stadium. I don’t want to diminish the game and result, because the Earthquakes picked up a huge win over a quality Seattle team, and anything but a win might have set a a bad tone for the stadium with a Bay Area team losing to a team from Seattle … again. Credit to the Earthquakes for doing their part to get the win and for instilling some doubt in the Seattle franchises mind.
The crowd had an interesting mix of Earthquake diehards, soccer fans, sports fans and 49ers fans. I actually bumped into a few Raiders fans in the elevator, too. I got the sense that the majority of the crowd, including myself, was more interested in taking in the sights of the stadium than the game.
My fears from Friday in regards to the stadium not being ready proved, well, let’s just say what a difference a day makes. Fans arrived early, but there were still plenty of parking challenges, especially postgame as people were misdirected in different directions. It’s a tricky area, as some of the stadium parking lots actually are side-by-side with Great America, which attracts a good crowd on a sunny summer Saturday. These things will get sorted out over time.
Once in the stadium, the fans’ eagerness to explore as well as the stadium staff and fans not having a feel for the flow of traffic, helped create some congestion in a few areas. Having said that, the stadium has an open air feeling to it. It feels very spacious.
I was fortunate to have access almost the entire stadium tonight, including the press box and field. With this in mind, it’s a little hard for me to know which areas are open to the public, which were press areas and which were VIP areas. I will say, that regardless of the level of ticket or access, the stadium has a classy vibe. Of course everything is new and shiny, which helps, but it was designed with a fan’s every need in mind.
I was told all of the concessions are handled in house, and they grind their ground beef each day for the hamburgers they serve. Hot dogs are made fresh each day as well. The food in the press area was phenomenal and everything was made from scratch.
I am athletic director at Sonoma Academy and I work out each morning at Team LP Fitness in Santa Rosa. LP has helped me maintain a more balanced diet but Saturday was my cheat day and I went for it. I sampled everything except the hamburgers — Tandoori chicken and rice, mac and cheese, a little salad for good measure, berry cobbler and I might have sneaked a chocolate chip cookie or three as well.
A trip to the stadium wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the 15,000-square foot 49ers team store, which has anything and everything a fan would need. Nearby the store is the soon-to-open team museum.