Taylor Price, 49ers.com
The San Francisco 49ers have proudly celebrated each construction milestone of the new Santa Clara Stadium, the future home of the five-time Super Bowl-winning organization.
Thursday’s “Topping Out” ceremony, however, was much more of a team-wide recognition of the rapid construction of the billion-dollar outdoor sports and entertainment venue.
The joyous celebration saw a large gathering of team officials and construction workers on hand to witness two gold-painted steel beams, the highest pieces of structural steel, being placed atop the 50-yard line of the stadium’s suite tower.
“It’s great,” project executive Jack Hill said of the large turnout. “This is really a celebration of the construction workers who have gotten us to this point.”
The excitement was evident at the stadium site, now 90 percent through with its steel construction. With steel crews and iron workers soon to move away from the project in the coming weeks, Hill felt it was the perfect time to acknowledge the contributions of the many prideful workers.
In addition, the workers all signed the gold beam along with 49ers executives, players, coaches, staff members and Santa Clara city officials. It was a touching tribute to all those who contributed to the future home of the 49ers.
When it was all said and done, more than 800 signatures were on the beam, including those of coach Jim Harbaugh and his cast of talented players.
“It’s a big piece of the process,” 49ers CEO Jed York said. “It’s nice to hit a milestone and it’s nice to be able to celebrate when you hit these milestones… A lot of folks didn’t think that this could happen and I think that this is evidence that it can and that it is happening.”
The milestone was certainly appreciated by York and his front office, but it’s not the end of the hard work taking place behind the scenes.
In fact, the CEO has big visions for the team’s future home.
“This is going to be almost three times the size of Candlestick, but it still has the same capacity,” York said, discussing some of the many features in store for the new stadium. “You look at how much bigger, how much more space you’re going to have in this building, it’s really going to be an unbelievable venue, not just for sports, but for all entertainment.”
York also pointed out that traffic following games would be less troublesome than the team’s current situation in San Francisco. He estimates exit times will be cut in half with the new Santa Clara Stadium.
Besides ensuring spacious confines inside the stadium and less congestion outside the building, the 49ers CEO and his team are working to ensure the in-game experience is the best in the NFL.
“I think you want it to be the best outdoor entertainment experience and that’s really what we’ve focused on,” York explained. “You want it to encompass all of what’s great about the Bay Area, from technology, to sustainability, to great food and most importantly, an unbelievable viewing atmosphere. That’s really what we’re trying to go for.”
Over-sized scoreboards aren’t the team’s sole focus according to York. Instead, it’s focusing on integrating personal technology to enhance a fan’s football experience.
“The home experience is so great,” York explained, “we want to make sure you have a better experience coming to the stadium. I think this is the stadium that accomplishes that.”
The experiences of 68,500 Faithful fans will all be unique according to York, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t prepared to be flexible with each customer.
Goals of a ticket-less, cash-less building are very real for the 49ers.
“We want fans to have a great time coming to this stadium,” York said.
In the meantime, the team’s CEO can take pride in reflecting on the latest accomplishment with all those who’ve made the organization’s dream a reality.
Celebrating with the construction workers was important to York.
“They’re the folks you want to celebrate with; they’re the ones who are on the front lines and you want to make sure you can bring everyone together and truly celebrate a milestone like this,” he said. “It’s great to see the hard-working men and women be able to celebrate.”
In the coming months, the stadium will move to interior projects. Duct work, plus preparing utilities for the suites, rooms, club levels, concessions and restrooms will fill up time for the construction workers.
Concrete work, too, is close to being finished. Hill estimates 50 percent of the concrete floors have already been completed on the stadium’s ground level.
York also has more work ahead for the new building. Besides hosting the annual Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl beginning in 2014, the 49ers CEO aims to have the organization host Super Bowl L in 2016.
York and the San Francisco Super Bowl host committee will make their final presentation to the NFL Owners in a May 2013 league meeting.
“We haven’t had a Super Bowl since January of ’85,” York said when making a case for the Big Game to be played at the Santa Clara venue. “You look at the beautiful weather, you look at the beautiful district we have in Northern California, a brand new football stadium, this is going to be the most entertaining outdoor entertainment venue in the world.”
That, in essence, is something to truly celebrate.