I've just returned from a very cool brainstorming session regarding the 49ers hall of fame, which will be part of the new stadium. The groups heading up the operation, Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc. and Cortina Productions, have the skeleton of the structure mapped out. What they're trying to do now is put the meat on those bones.
That's where we came in. The group invited several reporters to sit down and talk about everything from great moments in 49ers history to very broad ideas of what the team symbolizes to components we think should be part of the hall of fame. A reoccurring theme with us was that while The Catch is undisputedly the iconic moment for the team, there are 35 years of history prior to that that should not be forgotten.
The plans are ambitious, both from a content and a timeline standpoint. (The stadium is set to open two years from now). One of the tenets of the new stadium is cutting-edge technology. The hall-of-fame groups want to marry that techno-savvy with the franchise's past, which may seem like opposing ideas but which also promises to make it a very cool project.
For example, how would you like a virtual reality experience of exiting the locker room, walking through the narrow, moldy tunnels beneath Candlestick and then emerging onto the field in front of 68,000 screaming fans? (Think: "Avatar" meets "Any Given Sunday.")
Reporters are just one of the groups being consulted. Similar focus group sessions will be set up with season-ticket holders as well as teachers and students. The 49ers want this to be a year-round facility that caters particularly to children, who theoretically will learn about everything from nutrition to physics to sustainable design.
Former executives and players also will give their input. Indeed, as we were filing out, guys like Dwight Clark, Roger Craig and John McVay were heading in for their own session.
Cambridge Seven Associates has worked on a number of similar projects, including halls of fame for the Red Sox and Orioles, the NBA hall of fame and one for Little League baseball. The 49ers' version will be similar in size to one built by the Patriots in 2006. Cambridge Seven's Peter Sollogub said about 120,000 people go through that hall of fame annually.
One of the big differences, he said, is that the 49ers have far more history - and far more artifacts - than the Patriots did at the time. "When they began in 2006, they had zip," Sollogub said. The 49ers are now sorting through those artifacts, and as I wrote last week, they are seeking items from the franchise's past.
One of the ironies is that while Candlestick Park has been pilloried for being well past its prime and is being replaced because of that, it has served as an excellent repository for some of the items that are bound to appear in the hall of fame. Old scoreboards have been stored inside the 'Stick, which also is still home to the "helmet car" that once ferried injured players off the field.
-- Matt Barrows