The Ultimate 49ers Stadium Guide
Here’s your pregame, kickoff, and postgame cheat sheet to make the most of the Niners’ new home.
Colin Kaepernick / Fresh Guidelines / Stadium or Studio? / Navorro Bowman / The Big Game / Jimmie Ward / No Purse? No Problem / Aldon Smith / Not Your Daddy’s Ballpark Frank / Stevie Johnson / High Roller Vs. Cheap / Get game-time ready / Make it a Weekend / The Silver and Black Report / Players to watch on this side of the Bay
When the new Levi’s Stadium opens, it will be called the most high-tech stadium ever built. It will be called the greenest. And the old-timers at the bars in my neighborhood will still be calling it a “goddamn travesty.”
But when it opens its doors this August, Bay Area sports fans are simply going to call it “home.”
And what a home it’ll be: nearly 70,000 seats jam-packed with top-of-the-line wi-fi, a 27,500-square-foot living roof, and a $1.2 billion price tag.
10 Club-seat sections, each with its own theme. (Wine and fog are a couple of them.)
$61 million Portion of quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s new contract that is fully guaranteed. The six-year deal is potentially worth up to $126 million.
11 Wood stone pizza ovens expected to serve 13,500 slices during the first home game.
1:86 Ratio of food and beverage spots to fans.
200 Original works of art at the stadium commissioned from 23 artists.
$220 million Amount paid by Levi’s to secure the 20-year naming rights to the stadium.
$1.2 billion Cost of building Levi’s Stadium. (Candlestick Park, opened in 1960, cost $25 million.)
300 Works of art submitted.
10 Bandwidth, in gigabits per second, of two Ethernet fiber lines installed for wi-fi.
165 Luxury suites at Levi’s Stadium. (Candlestick had 93.)
53 Kinds of beer for sale.
$110–$475 Price for tickets to regular-season games. Marquee games—such as Seattle—run $131 to $569. (Comparatively, Raiders seats start around $50.)
68,500 Seats in the stadium. (Expandable to 75,000.)
40 Species of local vegetation planted on the stadium’s living roof.
150 “Network coaches” that will help fans use the stadium’s wi-fi network.
20,000 Square feet of solar panels.
48 California wines for sale to suite holders.
$15-$18 Cost to park at Great America theme park next door.
Befitting a stadium in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara stadium will offer fans the most tech-savvy game-day experience in the country: apps showing the shortest line for beer and the nearest bathroom, as well as instant replay and in-seat food delivery service.
“We’re bringing a world-class sports and entertainment venue to the Bay Area,” says 49ers Marketing Vice President Ali Towle. “We’ve talked a lot about this building being an icon of the Silicon Valley.”
The organization behind the stadium aims to combine Northern California’s classic obsessions—tech, food, and the 49ers—with the environmental sensitivity that’s at the heart of the region’s character. To that end, the team has installed solar panels on top of and near the stadium—enough to power the joint for all 10 home games. Combined with a new field turf requiring 50 percent less water and the rooftop garden, Levi’s Stadium expects to become the NFL’s first LEED Gold-certified stadium.
“The architects wanted to celebrate the climate we live in,” Towle says. “The stadium is very open air; we’ve used a lot of reclaimed and recycled materials.”
The “Bay Area” theme extends to the window dressing, too. The new stadium features a 200-piece art collection and a high-tech museum showcasing the history of the 49ers’, as well as the cultural and environmental history of the entire region.
Aesthetically, the stadium is designed like a giant C: There’s only one upper deck, and two-thirds of the 68,500 seats are in the lower bowl—meaning there really aren’t many nosebleeds. Opposite the upper deck is a five-story tower that will house the building’s 165 luxury boxes and the majority of the 9,000 club seats. On the north and south end of the stadium are twin 200-foot-wide LED scoreboards, said to be the largest in any outdoor stadium in the country.
And did we mention the food? Suffice it to say that the entire concessions menu has been spruced up, and the once humble ballpark dog is now more like a pedigreed pooch.
To get you ready for the inaugural season at Levi’s Stadium, Diablo has culled the information football fans need to know before the season kicks off.
It’ll take a whole bunch of his signature, bicep-smooching “Kaepernicking” after a touchdown to live up to that six-year, $126 million contract extension he signed this off-season. If he does, though, Kaep seems poised to take his place beside Montana and Young in the pantheon of great Niners QBs.
Most people assume that the general lawlessness of Candlestick’s parking lots will be a thing of the past when the 49ers move into their swanky new stadium. But just to make sure, the Santa Clara Police Department passed a series of rather, well, comprehensive rules governing fan behavior. Highlights include:
Fans may not play sports of any kind in the parking lots—including football, a tailgating staple. Neither can they skateboard, bicycle, or “cause anything to become airborne” at all, not even a Frisbee.
Say good-bye to the days of peeing into the San Francisco Bay. Decency laws will be enforced at the new stadium, so you’ll have to hold it for the toilets inside.
Parking is limited to one space only. RVs and larger vehicles will have to pay higher fees to park.
No loud noises, including air horns, drums, and megaphones inside the stadium, and loud music outside.
No animals are allowed in the stadium except for guide dogs.
Finally, no panhandling. That’s right—no begging in the lots. Hey, this isn’t San Francisco, after all.
Stadium or Studio?
Art Get your culture fix with these world-class collections.
Legendary 49ers players Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice aren’t just enshrined in football’s Hall of Fame. Their likenesses will line the walls and hallways of the 49ers’ new home, as part of an extensive art collection including both 49ers memorabilia and Northern California–themed pieces. Diablo spoke with the collection’s curator, Tracie Speca-Ventura, and creative director Camille Speca, about bringing art to the arena.
Q: Any good stories about acquiring this art?
A: Camille Speca: We culled over 200 artists for this collection, but the most interesting story is how we tracked down photos from Frank Rippon, the team’s first photographer. The 49ers had a drought of pre–1960s photographs. There was this big hole there. And nobody knew how to get in touch with Frank’s family.
So I did some sleuthing and found all the Rippons I could online, and sent letters on letterhead to everyone. After six months, I got a response from his son, who lives in Danville. He invited me over on several occasions, and we ended up sourcing quite a few of his images.
Q: What do you look for when building a collection like this?
A: CS: Our goal was to create a unique fan experience. We could have filled the stadium with just photographs, and that could be awesome and interesting. That’s what we did at Yankee Stadium, and that was well received. But we always thought we could have elevated it. That was almost like a lost opportunity,
and the 49ers, to their credit, really capitalized on that.
Tracie Speca-Ventura: We wanted to do things that would make the most rabid fan say, “I didn’t even think of that!” So we have some found-object artists, really beautiful collages, and really interesting, thought-provoking pieces.
Q: Are you two Niners fans?
A: TSV: I’m from Philly, so I was an Eagles fan. Camille’s a Giants fan. But working on this, we really had this intimacy with the past and present of the 49ers. Plus, this building is special. The fixtures, the finishes—it doesn’t look like any other venue. And it’ll just be the icing on the cake when the art goes up on the walls.
Bowman’s left knee—and Niners fans’ hearts—were blown to smithereens at the bottom of a fumble pile in the Niners’ title-game loss to Seattle. But the superstud linebacker should be back in the mix by the middle or end of the season, restoring the team’s defense to its full, QB-terrorizing glory.
Circle February 7, 2016, on your calendar. That’s when Super Bowl 50 will explode in Levi’s Stadium.
As the golden anniversary of football’s biggest game, Super Bowl 50 is sure to be a major blow out. San Francisco is the official host city, so the NFL Experience will be at the Moscone Center, and a fan village will be built downtown.
But organizers promise the party will reverberate throughout the Bay Area. More than one million people are expected to take part in the festivities, with 70,000 inside the stadium on game day.
And if the 49ers happen to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium, ever?
“Well, it’d be fun to watch: let’s just put it like that,” says Bay Area Super Bowl Host Committee CEO Keith Bruce, with a chuckle.
At less than six feet tall, Ward doesn’t necessarily look like a defensive thumper—but he hits like one. The 49ers used their first draft pick on the defensive back from Northern Illinois, and hope he can do like last year’s first-round pick, Eric Reid, and step into the starting lineup right away.
Pack ‘n’ Play What one fan plans to stash in her small bag.
Leave the camera bag, diaper bag, and NPR tote at home: They’re not allowed at the Niners’ new stadium. Neither is your fanny pack or any purse larger than a small clutch. Only clear plastic bags the size of a gallon-size Ziploc will be allowed.
So we asked Dublin’s Catherine Tate, president of the Ladies of the Empire, a women’s 49ers fan club, how to get the most out of the approved carry-ons.
Levi’s promises to be the most high-tech stadium in football. Using the stadium’s own app, fans can now watch replays, access different camera angles, and look up stats on a wi-fi network faster than your favorite running back. For low-tech fans, radio is still an option, without all the lag time of years past.
Candlestick saw a lot of moments—from The Beatles to The Catch—but it didn’t often see the sun. Sunny Santa Clara is a whole new ball game.
3. Flying Colors
Being a superfan requires spirit. Tate brings her enormous 49ers Ladies of the Empire flag to every game. “I like to show my support and then hope it doesn’t get taken away,” she says. (A Niners’ scarf isn’t as likely to rile up everyone behind you.)
4. Game-Time Grub
VIP seats now come with ballpark food included. But seasoned fans know that stopping by a deli before arriving at the stadium is the way to have a halftime sandwich without breaking the bank. It can also spare you from missing that third-quarter kickoff return for a touchdown. Just remember: No coolers are allowed.
5. Business Cards (Really!)
Where else do you get high rollers trading high fives with working stiffs like us? A football game is a great place to meet your next client or employer, Tate says.
The 49ers opted against cutting their star defensive lineman (and San Ramon resident) despite three felony counts of illegal weapons possession, two DUIs, one false bomb threat at LAX, and a stint in rehab. If that doesn’t tell you how good he is on the field, I’m not sure which stats would.
Not Your Daddy’s Ballpark Frank
Food Fans Uptown dining options transform game day into a gourmet outing.
While celebrity chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak and Pub is sure to grab all the attention, it’s not just the haute cuisine that’s getting dressed up at Levi’s Stadium. Centerplate, which runs concessions in stadiums around the country, is livening up the old beer and hot dog stadium fare. Here are the deets from executive chef Ryan Stone.
Q: What are you doing to revise the traditional ballpark food?
A: The frankfurter is naturally smoked, nitrate free, and steamed in a tomato broth made with locally sourced, fresh Alta Cucina San Marzano tomatoes, mustard seed, and caraway.
The pizzas are cooked in gas-fired wood stone pizza ovens, which provide a crispy crust. The tomato sauce is made with fresh tomatoes, and the mozzarella is one of the best in the country.
The famous garlic fries only use fresh garlic—from Gilroy of course—and extra virgin olive oil from Lodi. Nachos use tortilla chips delivered from Ozuna foods in Sunnyvale [and are] topped with house-made nacho cheese sauce made from Tillamook cheddar and local Cotija. We’ve also paid special attention to the meat-to-bun ratio on the burgers and frankfurters.
Q: How did you come up with this perfect meat-to-bun ratio?
A: The frankfurter is a little bit longer than average, so it was really important to find the perfect bun. We partnered with Le Boulanger to develop a custom bun recipe. We must have gone through eight different revisions to make sure the consistency and sweetness were just right. The buns hold the condiments perfectly, but aren’t too bready.
Q: OK, what should I order?
A: The bao bun samplers are unique, and seafood fans should try the bay shrimp roll or the house-cured salmon sandwich. I would also say that you have to try the burger. It’s really unique, as we’ve developed a custom grind of brisket, short rib, and chuck, which results in a very juicy and flavorful patty. Served on a light and airy ciabatta bun, it’s served with tomato, lettuce, and a roasted garlic aioli. Fans can also add Tillamook medium cheddar to make it a cheeseburger.
A draft-day trade brought the talented-but-erratic wide receiver (and San Francisco native) back to the Bay Area. Now, he just has to cure the butterfingers that led to this awesome tweet he sent to God, right after he dropped a game-winning touchdown a few seasons back: “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS [IS] HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! I’LL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO . . . ”
Budgets Whether you’ve got deep pockets or are saving for a down payment, here’s how to enjoy Levi’s Stadium.
Pro Bowler: OK, so money’s no issue. Then pick out your favorite of the four club levels, complete with their own upscale dining options and plazas, slap down the $80K seat licensing fee, and you’re living the high life for about $3,750 per seat per year.
Starter: Face value for single-game tickets to the so-called marquee games—Seattle, Philly, Kansas City, and opening night against Chicago—run from $131 to $569 for reserve seats.
Rookie: So there’s no way around the fact that football tickets are expensive. But if you stick to single-game seats to either one of the two home preseason games or a regular-season game against someone like the lowly Rams, you can get in the door for about $110. The cheapest nosebleed season tickets run about $850 per seat—after your $2,000 license.
Pro Bowler: You could splurge on a limo or party bus, usually between $300 and $500, or hook up with the upscale 49ers Game Day shuttle. In other words, take a Google bus into the heart of Google country!
Starter: All in all, Levi’s Stadium will have a few thousand more parking spots than Candlestick did—but many are almost a mile away from the stadium. Season ticket holders can get a yearlong pass for up to $400 while single-game passes run $40 on a first-come, first-served basis.
Rookie: From the East Bay, your best public-transportation bet is to hop on BART to Fremont, where the Santa Clara VTA 251 express bus runs every 20 minutes directly to Great America, just across the street from Levi’s.
Pro Bowler: Season ticket holders can purchase a yearlong membership to Michael Mina’s new Levi’s Stadium restaurant, Bourbon Steak and Pub. On game days, the restaurant will host Michael Mina’s Tailgate, a members-only VIP party costing about $5,000 per year.
Starter: The in-stadium concessions have undergone a major overhaul this year, as craft beer and local wine are now par for the course. Eats including Brie panini, Peking duck bao, and your basic frank will be offered at wallet-friendly prices.
Rookie: The oldest trick in the 49ers fans’ book: Stop by your favorite deli before you hit the stadium, and grab a couple subs to go. For a nice 49ers twist, try Bertucelli’s La Villa in Willow Glen, just south of the new stadium: That’s where the 49ers players loaded up before all their road playoff games last year.
The Gold Standard
Remember when gold satin jackets shimmered in the stands? Gone are the wind-blown days of Candlestick, but today’s fans can still sport new gilded jackets from Concord’s Heads Up Sports. facebook.com/headsupsports.
The Nostalgic Nod
We know it’s hard to say good-bye, so pay tribute to The Stick by snagging a Therethere T of the old stadium, or opt for a skull-emblazoned top designed by Oakland artist and art professor John Sherlock Hersey. Both are also available in a flattering women’s cut. therethere.com.
The Standout Screen Print
Designed and printed in San Jose by fan John Romero, Baysics Clothing’s Ts look great in the stands. Memorialize red-and-gold moments of The Catch, or the face of former coach Bill Walsh. baysicsclothing.com.
The Kaep Effect
In 2012, the tattooed arms of this Niners quarterback were immortalized in a T by Jason and Orly Locquiao, owners of San Jose’s streetwear company Cukui. Kaep’s shirt is sold out now, but Cukui has more than a few new designs up its sleeve. cukui.com.
Kickstarter-backed The DH Co. just released a batch of Niners’ T-shirts by San Jose brothers Adam and Ben Mayberry. Choose from the Winning With Class T, or opt for a cheeky tweak on Bay Area slang featuring goalposts. thedhco.com.
Make it a Weekend
Leisure Lovers Even if you’re local, stay around for the after party at one of these spots.
You don’t have to splurge on airfare to feel like a vacationing fan. Extend your stay in the Silicon Valley past game day, and you’ll get to experience the area’s resortlike accommodations, family-friendly activities, and diverse dining and shopping opportunities.
Start by checking into the Four Seasons Silicon Valley (fourseasons.com), just 13 miles from the Santa Clara stadium, to de-stress with a hot stone massage at the spa or a quick dip in the rooftop pool. Superfans are going to want to spring for one of the Touchdown Weekend packages, which include a pregame brunch and optional transportation to and from the game. If you don’t fill up at the stadium, make postgame reservations at Quattro, or head to the Four Seasons wraparound bar or alfresco terrace for tapas-style dishes and cocktails.
For kids who’d rather be a part of the action than watch it, devote a day to Great America (cagreatamerica.com), next to the stadium and open on Saturdays and select Sundays through October. Niners fans will feel right at home on the park’s new Gold Striker, a nod to the state’s gold-mining roots.
If your little thrill seeker is less interested in death-defying drops than the science behind them, Silicon Valley’s three computer museums offer plenty of diversion. The free Intel Museum (intel.com) at the tech giant’s Santa Clara headquarters has interactive exhibits. At San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation (thetech.org), kids can design, build, and program a real robot. At Mountain View’s Computer History Museum (computerhistory.org), the recent home of the IBM Watson computer from Jeopardy, master a game of digitized chess.
To travel back in time, stroll the gardens at Mission Santa Clara de Asís, one of California’s 21 missions (scu.edu). If all that walking has you hankering for a taste of home, pick up a meaty 49er or Steve Young sandwich at nearby Ike’s Place (ilikeikesplace.com).
For Niners fans looking to worship on the altar of all things #85, check out longtime tight end Vernon Davis’ Gallery 85, at the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts’ headquarters on Santana Row. Or stop by his Santa Clara Jamba Juice franchise store (3942 Rivermark Plaza) complete with his childhood photos.
Davis isn’t the only team member you might see strolling Silicon Valley’s shopping corridors. All-time rushing leader Frank Gore has been spotted at the Westfield Valley Fair mall, and rookie Marcus Martin recently stopped for a few snaps with fans at a San Jose Target store. So keep your eyes peeled for a flash of red and gold.
With new players on the roster, the Raider Nation is hoping to turn the page.
MoJo Is Back
Local Pride Maurice Jones-Drew returns to his home turf.
The Oakland Raiders signed Maurice Jones-Drew in hopes of forming a bruising two-man rushing attack. And if the Antioch native happens to bring hundreds of his friends and family to games at the Coliseum, well, the team’s sales department wouldn’t mind that, either.
The former De La Salle legend signed a three-year contract this offseason with Oakland, the team he grew up rooting for, after playing eight years with lowly Jacksonville. But he insists this isn’t just some celebratory homecoming as he eases into retirement; he’s trying to recapture the magic that made him a three-time Pro Bowler.
“I’ve spent every off-season here, so it seems like everything worked out,” Jones-Drew told reporters after signing the deal. “My kids don’t have to move around anymore, and I can play in front of my grandmother.”
At De La Salle, Jones-Drew helped the Spartans build the nation’s longest winning streak (they didn’t lose a single game during his three years on varsity) and scored four touchdowns in a nationally televised game in 2001 against Long Beach Poly, the number two school in the country at the time. It was the first number one versus number two game in high school history.
He went on to star at UCLA, and then with the NFL Jaguars, where he became one of the league’s best running backs between 2009 and 2011. But he injured his foot in 2012, missing the final 10 games, and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in 2013, the lowest of his career.
That made him an interesting buy-low option for the Raiders, who have gone all-in this off-season by picking up former star players maybe a year or two past their primes. Looking for a second chance, Jones-Drew says Oakland made perfect sense to him. “For me, it’s a chance to be in a place I can call home,” he says. “The 40-minute drive in . . . being able to relax and drive in, and think, ‘This is where I am; I’m home again.’
“It’s a blessing to be able to start my career here in Antioch and be able to finish in the Bay Area in Oakland,” he says. “It’s going to be an exciting couple of years here.”
Matt Schaub: Quarterback
The Raiders have started 15 different quarterbacks since Rich Gannon’s reign ended in 2004, and not a one of ’em has stuck. Schaub was benched last year, but the Raiders are banking on him to hold them until rookie Derek Carr takes over.
Khalil Mack: Linebacker
This first-round draft pick has the look of a great linebacker. He finished his college career among the all-time leaders in sacks, forced fumbles, and tackles for loss.
Darren McFadden: Running Back
This supremely talented running back has been with the Raiders since 2008 but has never quite lived up to his blue-chip billing. With Jones-Drew also in the mix for carries, 2014 figures to be DMC’s last shot to prove his worth.
Justin Tuck: Defensive End
Tuck posted 11 sacks last year for the New York Giants, a figure no Raider has matched since 2006. Tuck has won two Super Bowl titles and is being counted on to bring a winning attitude to the Black Hole.
James Jones: Receiver
James Jones, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, led the league in receiving touchdowns in 2012. Jones should be a great addition to a line-up that includes Rod Streater and Denarius Moore.