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February 12, 2014
49ers stadium closing in on completion

SANTA CLARA - The grass field is growing on a sod farm outside of Turlock. Half of the red seats have been installed. The dry wall is up and the furniture is on the way.

The 49ers on Wednesday provided a tour of their airy, new, 69,000-seat stadium, which confirmed what anyone driving past the facility in recent months has suspected - the heavy lifting is done and the project is nearly finished.

Project manager Jack Hill estimated that construction on Levi's Stadium, which began in April 2012, is 80 percent complete. He said approximately three percent of the remaining work will be accomplished each month from this point forth, meaning the stadium should be ready to use by August, just in time for the first event there, a Major League Soccer match between the Seattle Sounders FC and the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 2.

The 49ers will break in their new field with an exhibition game some time in the two weeks after that. The tour included stops at:

* The 49ers locker room, which is far larger than the one the team has been using at Candlestick Park and which will serve as the main locker room during the offseason and for weekly practices. Players will have access to hot and cold tubs as well as a hydrotherapy pool that will enable rehabilitating players to work out on a treadmill that's submerged in the pool.

* The press box, which includes 258 seats and was built big enough to handle an NFC championship game - the 49ers have played in the last three - and which also can handle a Super Bowl. The 49ers will host Super Bowl L two years from now. Another 5,000 or so seats for fans will be installed for that event on the plaza in the northwest corner of the stadium.

* A 49ers museum, which will be open seven days a week. The 20,000-square foot museum on the north end of the facility will house 49ers artifacts and exhibits but will largely serve to educate children about physical fitness and sports-related sciences. Kids will be able to go through their own scouting combine, including running a 40-yard dash.

"You'll see school buses pulling up here Monday through Friday quite a bit," said team president Paraag Marathe.

On Wednesday, the irrigation system beneath the field was being installed. Hill said the sod is currently being grown in Livingston, which is between Turlock and Merced. The grass, a strain of Bermuda known for its durability, will be cut up at the end of March and installed in early April. "They'll cut it into rolls, ship it off, and then lay it kind of like a carpet," he said.

Hill said the furniture for the 176 suites, for the press box and for the offices inside the building will arrive in six weeks. In April, some of the 49ers employees will move into their new work spaces.

One other major event has yet to occur - the so-called "super flush" during which every toilet and urinal is flushed and every sink turned on to see if the stadium plumbing can handle a half-time-like demand.

Said Hill: "Although it looks good, there's a lot to do between now and August."

-- Matt 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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