BritViewNFL continues its training camp tour with a flying visit (90 minutes from arrival time to departure for our flight to Detroit) to the new home of the San Francisco 49ers – Levi’s Stadium.
Stick with us throughout the week as we’ll also be bringing you exclusive reports from the training camps of the Wembley-bound Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Where is BritViewNFL.com?
At the spectacular 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium which will become the new home of the San Francisco 49ers during the 2014 NFL season. The state-of-the-art stadium is based in Santa Clara, California, about a 60-minute drive south of downtown San Francisco. It opens for NFL business on August 17 when the Niners take on the Denver Broncos in preseason action. The first regular season game takes place in Week 2 as San Francisco hosts the Chicago Bears on September 14.
5 observations from Levi’s Stadium
- Levi’s Stadium is very impressive but not in an over-the-top, in-your-face way. Project executive Jack Hill worked on the building of Dallas Cowboys Stadium and now Levi’s Stadium. They both work, but they couldn’t be more different. Whereas the construction in Texas adhered to the philosophy that bigger is better, Levi’s Stadium has a more intimate feel. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like a 40,000-seat venue – and I mean that in a good way because the fans are right on top of the action and close to the field.
- Club seats, stadium suites and even swimming pools in the end zones – I thought I had seen it all in terms of unique places to watch an NFL game from. I was wrong as I was taken to the very top of Levi’s Stadium and shown ‘The Green Roof.’ It’s where an expensive and trendy wine bar meets the Blue Peter garden. There are a number of environmental reasons for the roof of the stadium to be covered with 16 plants and flowers traditionally found in California. But the area has also been turned into an ultra-exclusive terrace where you can watch Colin Kaepernick and company in action far below as you sip your chilled Chardonnay. Football heaven! Well, you’re not quite that high, but it’s close.
- Levi’s Stadium reflects the character of the residents of the Silicon Valley. It is at the very cutting edge of technology but also gives a significant nod to the environment. I was told on Monday that recycled water will account for 85 per cent of all water used inside the stadium, making it the NFL leader in that department. But don’t fear asking for ice in your soft drink on gameday – the recycled water travels through distinctly coloured purple pipes and runs on a completely different system to that which will be drunk by Joe Public!
- If you ever find yourself in the BNY Mellon Club (don’t ask me what a BNY Mellon is because I don’t think I’ve ever eaten one) at Levi’s Stadium, make sure you don’t nip off to answer a call of nature just before the teams run out of the tunnel. In a nod to Dallas Cowboys Stadium, the competing players will march through the bar just before the kick-off. It’s a bit like a local Sunday League soccer team trudging through the Dog and Duck on the way to the muddy field out the back… only a bit more glamorous with the likes of Kaepernick, Patrick Willis and Michael Crabtree involved.
- When this fantastic $1.3 billion venue finally opens its doors for NFL action, there will be a huge amount of pride felt among the 49ers management – as well as a large dose of satisfaction and relief. 49ers chief operating officer Al Guido told me on Monday that the team first decided on a new stadium in 1998. So this can never be deemed as an overnight success. Sure, it is a glittering success, but not an overnight one! Insert your own adage in here about how all good things coming to those who wait. The 49ers are about to reap the rewards for their patience and perseverance.
Did you know?
Levi’s Stadium is about upgrading the fan experience (stadium concourses are 63 feet wide compared to the 19 feet of real estate at Candlestick Park, 30,000 parking spaces compared to 18,000, 13 freeway exits compared to four and more than 300 additional bathroom fixtures at the new venue) but this site is about business. The 49ers have an opportunity to conduct their corporate business like never before – and revenue from suites does not have to be shared with the other 31 clubs. Levi’s Stadium boasts 9,000 club seats while Candlestick Park did not have a single one! And Levi’s Stadium also wins the suite battle with 170 compared to 94. Those are important revenue generators and worth bearing in mind the next time the Niners splash a boat-load of cash to tempt a big free agent fish to northern California.
They said what?
“This is another thing in my life that I have never done and probably never would if not for you.”
– Sky Sports cameraman Don Flynn.
Let me be the first to point out that Don is not saying that in a good way. Don – who lives in Jacksonville and even catches a flight to his local supermarket – quite rightly thinks some of the itineraries I put together for our trips around the United States are crazy, to say the least. In June, Don and I were almost reduced to sleep-deprived tears while starting out in Oakland and working our way back to Miami and it was more of the same early Monday morning. Wanting to slip in this stadium visit to Santa Clara before flying to Detroit, I sweet-talked Don into a 3am departure from our hotel in Oxnard, California. We then drove 320 miles along one of the most beautiful highways in America – the Pacific Coast Highway. Well, we read that it was beautiful because we couldn’t see a thing – it was pitch black for the first three hours of the trip! I’m not sure why Don was complaining as he slept like a baby for a good part of the journey. And anyway, what’s a 320-mile drive among friends? And we were in Santa Clara for a good 90 minutes or so before racing off to the airport! That, dear readers, is a quality use of time.
I’ve always loved sports stadiums. I’m sure there are some of you out there – like my wife – who see them as nothing more than a collection of seats around a lump of grass. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve raced through World Cup magazines to check out the venues and love nothing more than looking at a good NFL stadium shot. To me, a good stadium can be so many things… a sporting church where followers of the same religion congregate once or twice per week, a recorder of history and a bear pit bubbling with testosterone and passion. That might be a bit too arty and a bit too strong. So if Mrs Reynolds is right and a stadium really is just a collection of seats around some grass, let me end by saying this – there is a not a bad seat in the house at the new Levi’s Stadium and the grass, as head coach Jim Harbaugh rightly pointed out, would look at home on the fairways of Augusta. It’s a gem!