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December 20, 2013
The halftime hustle: Coaches won't miss trek to Candlestick locker room

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Candlestick Park has the slowest elevator in North America. NFL coaches will back me up on this.

At halftime, coaches who watch the game from the booth in the press box must use this elevator to get to the locker room in order to talk to the team and the other assistants. In newer stadiums, there is a bank of modern elevators that deposit those coaches under the stadium only a few yards from the locker rooms.

In Candlestick, there's one, rickety, tortoise-like one that is prone to breakdowns. Not only that, it only goes down two levels. The coaches then must walk through the field-level stands to get to the playing field and then walk -- or more commonly, run -- across the field and into the locker rooms.

Vic Fangio today estimated he has six or seven minutes in the locker room before he has to turn around and make the reverse journey. Fangio said he's able to communicate the same things he can when the 49ers are on the road. Still, he said it's different.

"You don't feel the stress," he said of when the 49ers are on the road. "You know you're going to get up and down at a normal stadium. Here you've got to fight through the crowd, which can be a little bit chaotic at times. It's nobody's fault. It's just a lot of people going up and down those steps. And then you've got the elevator there and you might have to wait for it because there's only one whereas the new stadiums usually have a bank of three or four there."

Here's Greg Roman describing the journey: "You have to get on the elevator and take it down to the main concourse, fight your way through the people getting beer and pretzels and hot dogs, go down the stairs of the first level, get on the field, sprint to the dugout, sprint to the locker room. You've got about five minutes there, and then it's a full sprint back. What does that tell me each week? Man, I've got to get more exercise. I'm breathing really hard by the time I hit that elevator. We all are. We just look at each other and go, 'Whew, we've got to get more exercise.'"

Added Roman: "It's interesting. It's definitely part of the lore of Candlestick Park."

Fangio, who was an assistant with the Panthers and Saints when those teams were in the NFC West, said he's never had an issue with the fans as he's made his way through the stands at halftime. He hasn't in the last two and half seasons, either. "Luckily in the last three years, we've been fairly successful at home and the fans have been cordial," he said.

- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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