San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York arrives at the Allen & Company Sun Valley… (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Imagine bringing an iPad to an NFL game, and using it to watch replays from every conceivable angle, order food from a concession stand and locate your pal sitting across the stadium.
Those are among the possibilities envisioned by Jed York, chief executive of the San Francisco 49ers, whose club is constructing a $1.1-billion stadium adjacent to team headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley.
The first steel beams will be put in place Monday, and the 68,000-seat venue is due to be completed for the 2014 season. The land has already been graded, and the four gigantic cranes on the site can be seen for miles.
York, 31, met with The Times last week and talked about the endeavor, one many people thought would never come to fruition.
There are a lot of McStadiums out there. How will this be different?
Some stadiums have marble concourses in their suite towers. That's not really where we chose to spend our money. We wanted to make sure that we have all the functional pieces in place. Things that actually matter, as opposed to the pretty pictures and pretty presentation.
What do you mean by functional pieces?
We started with the fan experience with the design. You want to make sure that fans are close to the field, with two-thirds of the fans being in the lower bowl and close to the action. Things like, we made sure there were twice as many female restrooms as there are at Candlestick Park. We wanted to make sure the food that we use is as much local as possible, as organic as possible. It's going to be a Bay Area feel, where it's not the nicest, priciest artwork on the walls, but it's going to be great food, great atmosphere, great technology.
What are some of the high-tech features?
Some stadiums focus all their money on the scoreboards. That's a hardware solution. You can only show certain things on a scoreboard. There's only one screen, or two, three or four. If you have a tablet or some kind of smartphone device, it will be, what do you want to learn? You might like the offensive-line battle. And it's hard for you to see that, and that's not something that's going to be on the scoreboard. But you might want to watch Justin Smith maul an offensive guard and figure out, what's he doing? So to have a Justin Smith-cam that you're going to be able to watch on your tablet, those types of things are going to allow you to connect to the game in ways that you want to connect to the game.
A lot of people would rather watch games on TV than pay to see them live. And what about the fans who have fantasy teams and want to watch all the Sunday games?
One idea is to put the Red Zone Channel on the scoreboard for the early games and let people in the stadium. One of the things we've talked about is opening concessions before the game at reduced prices. When you look at the food and beverage consumed on a Sunday at a football game, 50% is consumed in the parking lot before people actually come in. So why not open that up and have sort of a tailgate atmosphere inside the stadium and watch games?
This stadium will be capable of housing two teams. Will the Raiders wind up playing in it too?
It's been on the table for a long time. I'm not going to speak on behalf of the Raiders. I think they've looked at a lot of options, and they realize that this is one of their options.
If this stadium is completed on schedule, it will be eligible to play host to the 50th Super Bowl. Considering the first was in Los Angeles, is there an argument that the 50th should be in California?
There's definitely an argument for that. . . . If you are looking for legacy and history, there hasn't been a Super Bowl in California in a long time, there hasn't been a new stadium in California in decades. If the NFL wants to put us up for the running for that Super Bowl, we'll be ready.
So hosting the 50th would be your ideal?
If I had my druthers, we'd go for Super Bowl 49.