Levi’s Stadium is massive, even though at this point it barely exists. You can actually see it rising from the distance when you’re driving down 101 South in the Bay Area. Once you hit the Santa Clara city limits, crane your head back and to the left and find an opening between the tech buildings dotting that side of the freeway. The light stanchions in the distance are already unmistakeable. By the time it opens in the fall of 2014, it will have cost (an estimated) $1.2 billion and seat 68,500 fans. Every fan in the stadium will have Wi-Fi connectivity to all their devices, the field will be irrigated with recycled water, and solar paneling will make 49ers home games an energy-neutral endeavor. It’s going to be a spectacular place for just about any conceivable event, and people here are ecstatic about its arrival.
NFL owners are also pretty ecstatic, apparently, and have now awarded Super Bowl L to the stadium, and January 2016 is now shaping up to a two-week party the likes of which the Bay Area has never seen. As this season’s championship game set to be played at MetLife Stadium, across the river from New York City, the selection of the Bay Area means that two out of the next three Super Bowls will be played in open-air venues in non-tropical, non-desert locations that you might be interested in visiting for reasons other than “Super Bowl” or “bachelor party.”
As a Bay Area partisan who’s a football fan, I couldn’t be happier. Visitors will get to check out the many tourist attractions of San Francisco proper, the wineries up north in Napa, and the old-town charm of places like Half Moon Bay, driving from surf-happy Pacifica, south of San Francisco, to the rolling hills of the East Bay or Muir Woods across the Golden Gate. There was palpable disappointment in these parts when the region blew its chance to bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, but this is a hell of a second chance at showing that marquee events are no difficult task. With the world’s foremost tech giants dotting the landscape for miles in each direction, the eyes of the sports world will be on little Santa Clara (population: 118,000).
The awarding of Super Bowl L has fulfilled a dream for many here, to show that Northern California can compete with any warm-weather car city when it comes to hosting world-class sporting events. Meanwhile, fans across the country should be happy about the NFL’s willingness to spread the Bowl around to cities like San Francisco, New York, and Indianapolis, last season’s host. (That you have to have a mega-expensive new taxpayer-subsidized stadium just to get your foot in the door…that’s a different column.) For one, it means you might get to see a Super Bowl in your city. For another, it means that you can hope to someday take a trip to see your favorite team play for a title in a place that has attractions besides strip clubs and Jagermeister bars — for all the NFL’s interest in being a sport for the whole family, they’ve certainly tended in the past to cater to their fratty core constituency by awarding Super Bowls to New Orleans and Miami whenever possible.
Besides, everyone likes to throw a party — not just the party towns.