The San Francisco 49ers took home an honor Wednesday evening as Levi's Stadium was named Facility of the Year in the United States in the Sports Business Awards. The award was part of a ceremony run by Sports Business Daily and Sports Business Journal. Levi's Stadium beat out AT&T Stadium (Dallas Cowboys), McLane Stadium (Baylor Bears), Staples Center (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings) and University of Phoenix Stadium (Arizona Cardinals).
The facility opened late last summer, with the first event involving the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders. The 49ers hosted their two preseason games and eight regular season games, but the stadium also hosted Oregon vs. Cal, the Pac-12 Championship Game, the San Jose Sharks vs. the Los Angeles Kings, and Wrestlemania 31. The stadium will host Super Bowl 50 next February. This does not begin to cover the volume of events at the stadium, but these are the big ones.
The team's COO shot a tweet of thanks, but also pointed out that planning for year two is underway.
California's public finance issues meant the stadium had to be mostly financed through SBLs, naming rights and other private options. There was some public money, but in reality the fans and sponsors are paying for the stadium. It's the first stadium built in California in a long time, so the 49ers certainly deserve credit for getting it done.
That being said, there is still plenty of room for improvement in year two. The parking was a work in progress. The team learned plenty, and hopefully it will continue to improve. And the grass was an absolute disaster. Given the volume of events, we have to hope they have figured out a way to improve it and avoid that embarrassment again.
In addition to these problems, the sun might have created the most significant issues in August and September. It appears the stadium will feature some improvements in year two, including some air conditioning type units in the east-side corridors, and misters in nearby plazas. The 49ers COO told the Sacramento Bee the team may also distribute hand fans. The team will also avoid early afternoon games until October. Their two preseason games are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. PT. They open the season on Monday Night Football with the later 7 p.m. PT kickoff. Their October 4 game is then scheduled for 1:25 p.m. PT.
The 49ers new stadium had its share of issues, and the front office needs to figure out how to correct many of the problems. But they are making progress, and that is something. The most important thing is that they learn from the problems last season and improve upon them. We'll be keeping an eye out for this.