Levi's Stadium Experience
(originally written 8/21/14)
The date: I don’t remember. I just know that while discussing our NFL team of choice, the San Francisco 49ers, D-Rock—among the most devoted Niner fans I know—suggested entering a drawing to win tickets to one of four practices/scrimmages being held at shiny, new Levi’s Stadium.
Even if tickets to Levi’s still remained for the 2014 season, I need my limbs too badly to purchase any—meaning that unless my press pass application is approved ahead of schedule, my only shot at gaining entry would be this drawing.
Between D-Rock and myself, we entered five separate email addresses on the chance that one would come up aces, giving us an opportunity to witness Amhad Brooks sock an overzealous no-name wideout in person. Or Alex Boone fiercely blocking a pass-rusher only he can see.
Time passed. Neither of us expected much. But just when I’d all but forgotten about the drawing, I received e-mail confirmation of my ticket victory for the August 4 practice/scrimmage—from both e-mail addresses! Soon, D-Rock confirmed he, too, had been chosen. Suddenly, instead of crossing our digits for even two seats, we now owned six of them!
Foolishly assuming giving away four free tickets to a brand-new venue would be a cinch, D-Rock and I mostly struggled to find any 49ers fans able and willing to break away from work on a Monday afternoon . Damn our responsible associates!
(I say "mostly" because my very first choice, my top dawg Chicken, agreed in about 0.3 seconds. I literally took his hand, got down on one knee and asked him to make me the happiest man alive by joining me at Levi's. There was no way he could refuse. "HE SAID YES!" I cried.)
Ultimately we did fill our seats, so off to Levi's we went.
Much has been reported concerning Levi's parking situation—several separate lots covering several separate, non-consecutive blocks are reserved for Niner parking in the stadium's vicinity. Our parking pass was good for Lot A (the nearest one) only. Explicit directions for entry were printed on it—enter off Tasman, nowhere else.
Heading up Great America Parkway, we ran into temptation—a young woman attempting to flag us into some lot. Unsure if this was Lot A and unwilling to risk deviating from my instructions, I continued to Tasman as my passengers considered pelting me with tomatoes. I just was not willing to risk any complications.
We did reach the Tasman entrance soon enough; I flashed my pass at the attendant (for all she knew, I was holding up one of Josie's drawings) and parked—with a little help from another attendant chanting and gesturing "To the left! To the left!" "Thanks, Beyonce!" I cheerfully responded. I'm not 100% sure she got it.
Once in the lot, I took a pic with Chicken. In my mind there would be us, posed regally with the majestic, glistening new stadium filling the skyline behind us.
Instead, it looked like two idiots standing in a used-car lot. The pic was deleted.
There were two lines—one on the sidewalk for what I later learned was the Intel Gate, and one in the lot for the Dignity Health gate. We had no idea what distinguished them, and since the Dignity line was closer, in we got.
I was embarrassed at the metal detectors by the unnecessary amount of crap I'd dragged in my pockets. (WTF did I think I'd need quarters inside? Laundry?) Chicken was embarrased by a guard commenting on his partially-concealed Candlestick shirt. Off to a blazing start.
In order to reach the concourses from our gate, we needed to take one of four escalators. All were headed upstairs. If you realized something fell from your pocket at the bottom...it was gone forever. I began to wonder if this whole "practice" was a cover for an alien abduction of some sort. Come on, guys. One escalator can go down. For peace of mind if nothing else.
Once inside, there was literally nothing unpleasing to the eye. From the massive hi-def video board even down to the fonts identifying the food stations—Levi's was all pristine, and all truly gorgeous. The ability to look down on the whole field from almost anywhere on the second level (along with the sea of red seats) reminded me a lot of Nationals Park in D.C. (Attended a game there in 2010, but I'm not here to talk about the past.)
The concourses had to be at least 40% wider than those at the Stick; drifting through a stadium has never been so easy (at least, not for me.) You could see everything from everywhere, practically. And what we saw were loads of females in summer clothing. Glistening female skin—usually lacking at Candlestick but in great supply here. Oh, yeah.
During our tour of the top level, I—being me—walked up to a stadium employee stationed along an unfinished walkway. I nervously confessed to sneaking in the barely-started stadium two years ago and taking pictures (a true story). I expressed deep remorse and vowed to never do anything like that again.
The chick had no idea what to do with my confession—the best she could do was insist I not use my findings to help the Raiders in any way. "Thank you. I just had to get that off my chest," I told her. That was fun.
Upon sitting, I told Chicken that, based on our ease in winning tickets, this must've been one of those drawings where everybody wins. A chick seated in front of us snapped her head around and, sounding almost offended, quickly dismissed my theory; apparently several people she knew entered and lost. She spoke nary a word to either of us again. Uplifting.
About the only disappontments: our failure to locate D-Rock's personalized Plaza Brick (the team sent him the precise location a week later), the inability to tour the 49ers Museum (still a week away from opening) and the seat size—let's just say they were not designed with hefty bodies like mine in mind. As we exited two hours later, Chicken and I noticed two, uh, larger female fans chillin' in the shaded area of the concourse. They clearly lacked the option of sitting.
We watched Frank Gore receive huge ovations every time he carried the ball as much as a yard, Phil Dawson gettin' his kick on, rookies such as Carlos Hyde, Marcus Martin and others attempt to impress, and infamous newcomer Jonathan Martin get handled more than once by his new teammates. Forgetting we were watching practice, I became confused when receivers slapped five with defensive backs after making plays. Coach Harbaugh even waved to the crowd of 10,000-plus!
But after a while, the sun began to destroy us—as it did fans attending the first preseason game a couple weeks later. So came to a close a day we won't forget, being among the first commoners to ever attend a 49ers anything at the new stadium.