SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Say this for the 49ers and their new Levi's Stadium: They got their $1.2 billion worth.
The NFL's newest stadium, which hosted a 49ers game for the first time on Sunday, is different. That's not something you can say about all NFL stadiums. Most are very nice but generally look about the same.
There's a lot about this stadium (of which Yahoo is a corporate partner) that you won't see in other stadiums, as you can see in our video tour above. Instead of focusing on how to make the in-stadium experience unique, the 49ers figured out an experience that wouldn't leave their fans missing anything from home. They brought as many comforts of home into the new stadium as they could. They're very proud of the Wi-Fi capabilities. The team says Levi's Stadium has 40 times the Internet bandwidth capacity of any known U.S. stadium. You can order food at your seat and have it brought to you via the team's smartphone app. Also on the app, you can see replays from multiple angles about 5-10 seconds after each play is finished.
That's all very smart. There's no use anymore in ignoring that many fans want to check on their fantasy teams during the game in front of them or talk about the game on social media. The 49ers' new stadium will be a great test case moving forward.
So is this new park the new standard-bearer for NFL stadiums? It's not the best in the league, but it's close. Lambeau Field will be nearly impossible to top because of the history and the charm of being in sleepy Green Bay. Levi's Stadium isn't quite to the level of Cowboys Stadium, because the grandeur of Jerry Jones' place is stunning.
Levi's Stadium is probably in the top five of NFL stadiums, however. It's very open and as intimate as a 68,500-seat venue can be, with a pretty small upper deck. The lower bowl is one of the largest in the NFL, and it ensures there aren't many bad seats. The open feel of the concourses and entrances on the northeast and northwest corners give it the feel of a new baseball stadium, which is a compliment. There was some creative thinking that went into every part of planning and building the stadium, and it shows.
“It was nice, nicer than nice," said NFL MVP Peyton Manning, whose Broncos faced the 49ers on Sunday. "I had heard a lot about it and of course it was a great day for football. Yeah, beautiful setting and great sightlines for the quarterback on the field. I was very impressed.”
Levi's Stadium might not have taken over the top spot as the best NFL stadium, but it probably provides a nice blueprint for all the new stadiums that will follow.
- - - - - - -