Matier and Ross reported this week that Jed York and the San Francisco 49ers are hoping to open their new
pretend stadium in Santa Clara a year early, meaning it would be ready for the 2014 season instead of in '15. Ignoring the fact that this announcement is a little bit like me announcing that I am hoping to secure a six-figure job covering sports a year earlier than I had previously planned, it got me thinking about what I'd want a brand new stadium to include.
You say offering suggestions for a stadium that has already been designed is a waste of time? Maybe, but while I probably can't think of anything as urbane to the NFL experience than the 49ers' planned "green roof" (complete with grass and solar panels and cheerleaders with dreadlocks and unshaven armpits from UC Santa Cruz, one woud hope), it won't hurt to put in my two cents. Especially since when it comes to those 60,000 Personal Seat Licenses they're trying to sell, I won't even be offering the 49ers that much.
If I was the architect of this theoretical project (wasn't it just a month ago when supposedly the only way the Niners were getting a new stadium was if they shared it with the Raiders?), here's what I'd demand:
1. Make it LOUD
One of the biggest problems some of the new NFL stadiums have presented is a sterile atmosphere where the "real fans" are all priced into the upper levels, separated from the action by the lower bowl and a tall, multilevel luxury suite section. The Niners seem to have that covered by creating a tower that houses the majority of the luxury suites and the aforementioned "green roof."
But with architectural tricks like the ones Paul Allen demanded when creating the Seahawks' current home, which he had modeled after Husky Stadium, a stadium's decibel level can be enhanced. The result is an incredible homefield advantage for Seattle, even with Tarvaris Jackson as their starting quarterback.
Don't get all United Airlines on me, Jed. As a guy who's 6' 2", there's nothing worse than having my knees hitting the seat in front of me. I like to watch a football game while standing up anyway, so I can yell, jump around and more easily high-five strangers, and if there's barely any legroom there's nothing to keep me from standing the entire game, regardless of the rich season ticket holders behind me repeatedly saying, "Down in front!"
3. Two big Jumbotrons that show all the replays
The NFL seems concerned about all these rogue fans who don't feel like going to games and paying hundreds of dollars. If you have a couch and an HDTV of decent size, why would you willingly leave your living room where (a) cheap food is plentiful, (b) NFL RedZone keeps you updated on every game without commercials, and (c) you don't need a designated driver to get home safely?
That's one of the tough things about going to a football game, you usually end up missing all those great replays during the stoppages in play. The 49ers shouldn't be happy with one big screen by the scoreboard, two is absolutely necessary so everyone can see (the idea of everyone having a small screen at their seat isn't feasible since people would undoubtedly find ways to break the screens because we can't have nice things).
And for the replays, this whole, "We're not going to show a replay that upsets anyone" has got to go. If I'm paying in excess of $75 a ticket, I want to see all the replays I would if I was watching on my couch. Nothing drives me crazier than wondering what the officials are watching during a 5-minute review session and the Jumbotron is stuck showing a picture of a 49ers helmet.
4. More bathrooms. No, still not enough ... add more
Fans shouldn't be punished for doing what each NFL game tells them to. And NFL games tell us to hold it until halftime and/or the end of the game, or at least until the end of each quarter for those of us who are bladder-deficient. But whenever you go up to the bathroom during a stadium's rush hour, you end up standing in line for 10-30 minutes in an area where you'd rather not spend a lot of time inhaling.
Niners, your scientists and calculators are better than mine. Figure out the maximum amount of bathroom occupants at any one time during a game, and supply 10% more urinals and toilets than that figure suggests. Less time standing in line to pee means more time to wait in line for overpriced food and drinks.
I'm not talking about Cleveland's dawg pound here, and I actually am serious. As the proud owner of a 7-pound Pomeranian (yeah, I used to mock small dogs too ... until I ended up hanging out with a cool, smart little furry pipsqueak who plays fetch and has pound-for-pound the most personality of any dog I've ever met) who barks her ass off if we leave her alone, my wife and I end up taking her everywhere we go to avoid getting evicted from our apartment.
Time to eat dinner or watch a movie? Just stick her in my wife's dog purse and she's a happy camper (the dog, not my wife). The only places we can't take our dog: sporting events, where they are always sure to look inside every purse for bombs and liquor.
Why not do what Disneyland does and offer a kennel? The Magic Kingdom charges $20.00 per animal, and you can leave your dog or cat there all day. The 49ers could easily get away with charging that much (if not more), and they'd only have to keep their kennel open for half the day. I'd love to tailgate with the little furball, drop her off and pick her up after a game. That is, if I could afford a couple PSLs...