The crowd noise at Levi's Stadium has been question ever since the 49ers decided to break ground in Santa Clara. Candlestick Park never had any bells and whistles, but it was home to the San Francisco 49ers. The stadium roared when it needed to and gave the team every bit of home field advantage it deserved.
The new home of the 49ers has been ranked the most expensive NFL venue to take a family of four. StubHub said the average fan paid $373 for a ticket to attend the 49ers home opener. Sunday was my first time seeing the new stadium and by all accounts, it really is a fantastic venue. And, for many fans, attending the home opener was worth the extra cost to add to our memories as a fan.
Jim Harbaugh spoke with the media on Monday and said, crowd noise at Levi's Stadium was good "at times." It, like the team's performance, "could be improved."
The crowd at the stadium was enormous, with almost 71,000 in attendance. With a crowd of that magnitude, I expected the noise to be off the charts. And, it was -- at times. The first half of the game, the place rocked. It was so loud, there were times, I could not hear my sister talking right next to me.
I sat in the lower seating bowl in the corner of the north end zone. Club Level sideline tickets allowed access to the Levi's Club Section, which had much to see and experience inside the new high tech stadium. Access to this area means those tickets are incredibly pricey. Unfortunately, a lot of fans seated in lower sidelines were touring the inside during the game. After the second quarter, there were more empty seats in the first level than occupied seats. Perhaps everyone thought the game was won and they migrated elsewhere or wanted to make sure they received their money's worth.
In the Club Level, I noticed fans in green polos and even women in dresses with sun hats. We chuckled at this, but if you remember when the Giants moved into AT&T Park (then PacBell Park), it was sort of similar. You saw snobby fans carrying their BlackBerry phones and they had the really good seats. And, even the affluent fell in love with baseball and the team. There are a lot of similarities with the new football stadium. 49ers have become a bit of a fad and if that helps the team pay for a new state of the art stadium, I am all for it.
Even though there are apps that allow you to order food and drinks to your seats, it appeared many were distracted by the activities inside. This was disappointing. I imagine it was the home opener, so for many fans (like me) -- this was the first look at the new stadium. And, there's a lot to take in. Yet, I believe as the newness wears off, we will find more people in their seats.
Another huge problem for limited crowd noise were the penalties. When our section started to get loud and build stadium momentum, there would be a flag. It completely derailed the tempo of the game and the crowd noise. The flags were confusing and when the replay was shown, it left the crowd speechless. Crowds respond to what they see on the field. Turnovers and penalties took the life out of the stadium. So, considering the circumstances, that was to be expected.
However, I was disappointed by the lack of noise during defense. 49ers fans should have been louder on defense. There were times the stadium could have been more interactive with its two gigantic HD video boards which span 200x48 feet. It later occurred to me fans can tweet out pictures and words using hashtag #cometoplay and tweets appear on the video board. I should of tweeted "GET LOUD LEVI'S" to inspire fans. If you are at the next game, I encourage you to use some of the fun and interactive technological abilities to get the fans involved.
A crowd favorite was the red fog horn just under the right video board. It created a bit of nostalgia for me. Anyone from the Bay Area knows that sound -- as soon as it is heard. The fog horn was a fun and purely San Francisco touch that made me want to scream for my team.
Barry Bonds and Jerry Rice were shown on the big screen in an effort to amp up the crowd and it worked. During those periods, you could hear how loud the stadium could get. On the first level, it was deafening. Considering it was our first regular-season home game, I am confident 49ers fans will settle into the new stadium and be able to bring the noise to give the 49ers a true home field advantage. And as Harbaugh stated, there is definitely room for improvement.