SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — I grew up going to Candlestick as a kid in the early ‘90s, and I remember the good and the bad of it. For better or worse, it’s going away. But one thing was clear as I walked into Levi’s Stadium for the first 49ers game in their new home this Sunday: the Niners are where they belong.
My dad my brother and I would head down from Sonoma County in the late eighties and nineties to brave the traffic and upper parking lots at the top of Cardiac Hill. I never turned into a diehard fan with a brain full of stats, but I always enjoyed myself at games.
When my manager offered me a chance to cover the 49ers first game at Levi’s, I jumped at it. I’d have to work, but the opportunity got me through the gates with an all access pass.
Living in the East Bay now, getting to the game seemed easier than when I was a kid. BART to an express VTA bus in Fremont made quick work of getting me to the park, and drivers reported little traffic on freeways and surface streets – something that could rarely be said about Candlestick.
There’s no mistaking the area around the stadium for Hunter’s Point, with offices for tech firms surrounding Levi’s making it clear you’re in Silicon Valley. The heat doesn’t let you forget that either.
Once I made it into the new stadium everything had a crisp feeling and sharp designs which seemed fitting for a place that houses five Lombardi trophies. My job was to take photographs, but excitement got the better of me for the first lap around the stadium. A single picture wasn’t snapped for the first thirty minutes as I walked around in awe of the new digs.
The SAP Tower on the West side houses the press areas and luxury suites. I was lucky enough to check out the press area on the eighth floor where sports reporters and media executives had room to spread out and work with an impressive view of the field below.
Mingling with fans I heard observations of how it was strange to park on a golf course, or that they missed (just a little bit) of that funky feeling at Candlestick. Those were the worst complaints I heard about the commute, and the fan experience overall. Despite the distance from their namesake city, the Niners seem to have found a proper home.