Hello and welcome to another edition of In Defense Of,where we take a look at something in the world of sports that perceived as questionable,unpopular,or misunderstood. The case is then taken for that particular thing.
In this case, this is kind of a popular item.
After 43 seasons at Candlestick Park,during which time the San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls, the team left their digs at Hunter’s Point and moved 40 miles south to Santa Clara to a new stadium,Levi’s Stadium,which is close to their headquarters in the same town. At $1.3 billion, the stadium was supposed to be the next best thing for the team after spending so many years at windy,cold,and at times miserable Candlestick. Entering the team’s third season at the new place,fans have expressed their displeasure of Levi’s Stadium and some would say it’s hard to blame fans for not liking it. Here are the reasons why I’m taking their side in the dislike of Levi’s Stadium.
Reason #1 It’s not in San Francisco
Despite playing near San Jose,the team is still nicknamed the San Francisco 49ers. But it’s not just the name that’s bothersome to fans,it’s the location of the new stadium they play in. Santa Clara is located roughly 40 miles away from where their old stadium,Candlestick Park,was. It’s not even close to San Francisco.
Now,the 49ers did try to make a new stadium happen in San Francisco. In the 1990s a plan to build a new stadium at Candlestick Point complete with an adjacent shopping center went to a public vote and passed,but construction never came to fruition. By 2006, the team had plans to try again at Candlestick Point with a 68,000 seat capacity stadium, but those plans were scrapped when the team and San Francisco couldn’t come to an agreement to build there. The team then turned to Santa Clara at a site near team headquarters and California’s Great America and the rest is history.
I think if the team was playing better football than they are now the fans would be more willing to spend the extra time and extra money to go and watch “their” team play 40 miles away from the city they call home. However,the team isn’t very good and didn’t play very good football the last year that Harbaugh was the coach and were pretty bad last year. With a team as bad as they are and are projected to be in 2016, fans feel their time and finances would be better spent watching the team lose in the comofrt of their own homes or a local sports bar.
Reason #2 A Hot Mess
In case you don’t know,the temperatures at Levi’s Stadium are considerably higher in Santa Clara than they were at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. While there is one side of the stadium that receives some shade,fans on the opposite end aren’t as lucky as those fans are likely going to feel a great amount of heat and come home with sunburns. One fan even died from heat exhaustion during an exhibition game in 2014.
During that same game,there were around 60 emergency calls and most of them were related to the heat. Back then 49ers officials pledged to find a way to make the stadium more visitor friendly in regards to the heat felt at the stadium by the team’s fans. We’re still waiting.
As a result of the heat that 49ers fans are sizzling through as well as the team’s struggles, some fans are selling their personal seat licenses.
Fans are begging the team to do something about the heat,much like the Miami Dolphins are doing with their stadium. A $400 million renovation to Hard Rock Stadium includes the construction of a canopy to shield the fans from the unbearable South Florida heat and humidity.
While I was hard on fans for not being brave enough to endure the heat last year in an Odds & Ends, I take a lot of that back.
When the game day experience is not enjoyable because of something like extreme heat,something that fans have actually died from at this stadium, you as a fan have every right to be disappointed with the new stadium and to flat out hate it. Now,if the team was doing well,I’m sure there are fans who would be willing to put up with the hot mess that is Levi’s Stadium. It would still be a problem and insufficiency with the stadium,but winning does heal wounds no matter how red they are on your face following a 49ers win.
Reason #3 Turf Woes
How does a $1.3 billion stadium have the worst playing surface in all of football?
In the time that Levi’s Stadium has been open, the field the team has used had been a questionable playing surface. In Week Six against the Ravens in 2015 where Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker had some of the turf collapse under him. Even after the venue hosted Super Bowl 50, Denver cornerback Aqib Talib said the footing on the field was “terrible.”
The turf woes have even forced the 49ers to not practice on the field and a few high school games slated to play there were rescheduled.
It’s made fans wonder why the team just doesn’t use an artificial turf field,it works for several other teams and there’s been virtually no complaints about those fields. I think the team needs to give up on growing grass on this field if they aren’t going to properly care for it and are going to ignore the safety of the players.
It’s embarrassing when your team’s shiny new stadium has problems with the playing surface. Are they the first to have a new stadium with these issues? Of course not, but they are the latest and they are having trouble figuring it out.
When you open a new stadium or arena,you better have a team that fans want to go see play in it. The 49ers don’t have that.
When the stadium opened in 2014, the team had come off of a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
However,in the 2014 season relations between the front office and coach Jim Harbaugh weighed on the team and they went 8-8 and missed the postseason for the first and only time in Harbaugh’s time as coach of the team. Harbaugh was fired and then became the head coach of the University of Michigan,his alma mater. His replacement,defensive line coach Jim Tomsula,didn’t fare any better in the 2015 season with a 5-11 season and starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick out for the season with a shoulder injury.
During the 2015 season the number of fans in the stands dwindled. The reasons are numerous: The heat during the summer months as mentioned before, the high cost of going to a game, not being able to print out tickets until 72 hours before kickoff if you have a PSL and the effort it takes to get to a game to see a bad team.
But wait,didn’t the team sell out their games at Candlestick when they were bad before the Harbaugh era? They did,but that was a different stadium in a time when fans were willing to shell out the dough to go to Candlestick. Levi’s Stadium is newer and more expensive to go to and when you have the option to go there and watch a terrible team play football versus not going and saving that money for something else, I think fans are going to stay home.
Despite it being cold,windy,ancient,and on top of a former landfill, 49ers fans have and always will have a soft spot for Candlestick. They witnessed a lot of greatness there. They saw Joe Montana connect with Dwight Clark in the end zone to send their team to the Super Bowl. They saw Terrell Owens beat the Packers in 1998. They saw Steve Young stumble into the end zone after a long run in the playoffs against the Vikings. They saw Navarro Bowman make the final play to seal a victory in the venue’s last NFL game. The fans and the stadium went way back.
This new place,while it has yet to have the same kind of magic that Candlestick had for the 49ers, is nothing like the old building was. Yeah,it was oddly shaped for a fully enclosed stadium and there was always a section of orange seats that was always empty, but on game day,it was a place where 49ers fans could come and watch their team play and know that for three hours it was them against the rest of the world. Plus,the stadium was in San Francisco.
Levi’s Stadium isn’t capturing that magic for the fans at all. Instead,it’s an expensive sauna for the fans with bad turf on the field and a beer costs way more than it truly should. Fans have every reason to hate Levi’s Stadium,it’s not the Stick.
So there you have it,our defense of 49ers fans hating Levi’s Stadium,maybe one day it will be remembered fondly as a stadium that took some time to win fans over, but as of right now it’s looking like a billion-dollar mistake. That’s it for this edition of In Defense Of!