49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

February 14, 2014
Let there be light: Thoughts on the 49ers' new stadium

When 49ers first unveiled plans for their new, 69,000-seat stadium, they said the goal was to pay homage to area's mild weather and abundant sunshine with an open, airy stadium. After touring the mostly-built stadium this week, my impression was that they succeeded.


The two concepts that jump out most are light and space. For example, the suite tower on the west flank - the stadium's money maker - is built of glass on both the side that looks onto the field and the side that looks west toward the Santa Cruz Mountains. The main club in that tower includes a large atrium that spans the width of the suite tower. At the risk of going too high brow on you, it reminded me of newly built entrances to museums - the Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., for example - or even the newest airport terminals in which glass, natural light and large spaces replace artificial lighting.

The concourses have the same effect. They're reminiscent of the concourses at the newest baseball parks in that they're roomy - they average 63 feet in width -- and you never lose sight of the field. You could walk from the northwest corner of one end zone to the southwest corner of the other and watch the game the whole time. The spacious promenade on the northwest corner - where there will be a beer garden - also makes the stadium seem light and open.

A potential downside to all that openness -- depending on how much you treasure your hearing - is that Levi's Stadium doesn't seem like it will be a particularly loud stadium. Unlike its counterpart in Seattle, which was built to protect fans from the rain, there are very few overhangs and spaces to trap and reflect sound. Seattle's stadium was designed to shield people from the rain; Santa Clara's was built to welcome in the light.

The other Debbie Downer observation (from someone who lived in that part of Santa Clara for four years) is that there's not much to see. The best feature of that part of the bay is that it is between two mountain ranges. Otherwise, there is a parking lot and an amusement part to the west, an electrical station to the southeast and the 49ers practice facility to the east. If such a translucent stadium had been built on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, for example, there would be a lot more to look at. Of course, the design probably couldn't have been as airy in a spot where the air can be cold and unpleasant.

Here are some images that were taken by me, The Merc's Cam Inman, Comcast's Matt Maiocco and The Bay Area Sports Guy of the features discussed above. I figured those guys would want photo credit. (Maiocco in particular seems pretty litigious.)

Here's a clip that looks from the promenade in the northwest corner toward the field. The 49ers' sideline will be on the right side of this image. Their locker room, however, will be on the other (east) side of the stadium, meaning they and the visitor will have to cross paths at halftime.


This shows how wide the concourses are. All of the vending stations are on the outside walls (away from the field) of the stadium.

-- 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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