When the San Francisco 49ers take the field on Sunday for a pre-season game against Denver, it will be in their brand new stadium in Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley. For a football team named in honor of San Francisco’s first big economic boom, it’s only fitting that their new home is pure tech.
First of all, there’s the mobile app. It can pull up your tickets and direct you to your seat. You can use it to order food and beer, and have it delivered to your seat. And if you’re so glued to your phone that you miss a game-changing interception, the app has instant replay.
“It enables an enhanced fan experience that more closely simulates what you can get on your couch,” says Paul Kapustka, editor-in-chief of Mobile Sports Report, which tracks technology in stadiums.
The $1.3 billion venue has wi-fi, cell service and room to grow, technologically.
“This may be the sort of new standard that new stadiums are aiming for,” says Kapustka.
The team is also making a big deal about how green its new home is.
I went to check out Levi’s Stadium when it was still under construction, at the end of last year. Jack Hill, who oversees all the construction, showed me around.
“You see the purple pipe? That’s all recycled water,” Hill said, pointing up at the ceiling on field level. The water for the field comes from a nearby water treatment plant.
And up on the roof, he pointed out the solar panels, mounted on top of a tower of suites the length of, well, of a football field. Solar panels also cover pedestrian bridges between the parking lot and the stadium. Those panels will collect enough energy to offset game-day electricity use.
“The Niners have said this: they are absolutely using this as a showcase,” says Andy Dallin, one of the principals of ADC Partners, a sports marketing agency in the Bay Area. “It’s their goal to make sure the stadium manifests everything that Silicon Valley represents.”
Dallin says sure, the 49ers have the tech side down.
“I think the much harder thing to do is the human side of this,” he says.
On a sort of test-run, at a soccer game earlier this month, traffic was a mess. So the Niners are working out some real life kinks at this high-tech stadium.