Levi’s Stadium Tour

These days, there’s no such thing as a comprehensive stadium tour, at least not for Joe Public. Inevitably, some important feature is missed or glossed over. Most every stadium tour visits the luxury areas (clubs, suites) to show the public where their money went and to sell the occasional business owner on the merits of a package. Visits to a locker room/clubhouse and the press box are requisites. If the stadium has grass, you’ll get to see it. You won’t be able to step on it. Some operators allow fans to step on an artificial turf field, some don’t. If there’s a museum or historical monument, some time is usually spent there. The 49ers didn’t stray far from the formula at Levi’s Stadium, and in doing so the tour I took there felt like it came up a bit short.

At midfield

At midfield

The team provides two versions of the tour, a $35 ticket that includes a 49ers museum entry, and a $25 version sans museum. I took the latter. If you’re not aware, I’m not a 49ers fan, so while I have an appreciation for their history, I don’t feel the need to spend an extra $10 to see it. Besides, I already visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier in the summer. I’m good with the history stuff for now.

Tickets for the tour and other events can be bought at the main box office along Tasman Drive near the Toyota Gate F (northeast end). A small valet parking lot is provided there, otherwise you can park near the golf course across the street or on non-event days, the main lot to the west. The Tasman Drive side also has the entrance to Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak restaurant at Gate B. Move west towards Intel Gate A you’ll see doors to the museum and Comcast Sportsnet’s in-house studio. All the while you’ll be shaded by the bulk of the stadium, its huge angled steel columns reaching skyward and touching down close the street. The whole package takes up about 17 acres between the 49ers’ preexisting headquarters and San Tomas Aquino Creek, which was left undisturbed during construction. A set of 3 new pedestrian bridges link the stadium to the main lot.

Having worked in the tech industry for 15 years, I instantly recognized the tour guide’s initial talk as a sort of startup pitch, and I wasn’t surprised by that in the least. He made sure to use “technology” and “fan experience” several times in his spiel, emphasizing the excellence within. It makes sense, especially if the team is trying to get fans to spend money to buy such an experience instead of hanging out at home in front of their flatscreen TVs and with their much cheaper (and often better) junk food items.

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Instead of walking around the bowl, we took an escalator up to the Yahoo! Fantasy Football Lounge, an attempt to corral fans who need to get their extra juice by watching “their own” players on Sunday. It’s a good setup, with unassigned, get-there-early seats along the windows. Flatscreens are assembled into a seamless ribbon board to display stats per player and position. FFL has its own concession stands. If you’re a fantasy junkie it might be your kind of setup.

We weren’t able to visit the multi-level United Club as a private function was already underway there. Strangely, we didn’t visit any suites either. I suppose that’s just as well, since they’re all sold out for 10+ years. Usually there’s a community or city suite to visit. Then again, when you’ve visited as many stadia as I have, suites stop looking impressive and start looking like the same nice hotel hospitality suite with a view after a while.

The Club and Lounge are on different levels of the SAP Tower, the west stand that holds the those facilities, the press box, roof garden, and locker rooms at field level. It may not be inspirational in any aesthetic sense, but it is incredibly efficient. And yes, that’s the same SAP that has naming rights at San Jose’s arena.

Levi's Stadium has 9 levels within the SAP Tower

Levi’s Stadium has 9 levels within the SAP Tower

Our next stop was the Verizon Press Box on Level 8, which seems 10 times the size of its counterpart at the ‘Stick. There are multiple functioning elevators. The buffet area isn’t the size of a Manhattan studio. It’s wonderfully, blissfully air-conditioned. Now that might not sound like much, but the press box at the ‘Stick was terribly cramped, uncomfortable, and a death trap waiting to happen. A corridor behind special suites on the press level features old magazine covers with great 49ers of the past on them. The press box and its hermetically sealed environs are no place for cheering fans, which makes it great that the 49ers provided options that mimic press box-style views.

We walked up a few flights to reach the roof garden on Level 9. This area has gotten rave reviews for its flexible usage and its contribution to Levi’s Stadium’s LEED Gold rating, the first for a stadium in the US. Named the NRG Solar Terrace, the roof has a glass-fronted rails for those who want to watch the game, and hotel-like outdoor lounge areas towards the center. In the distance you can see the Bay to the north and the downtown San Jose skyline to the south. Various plant types are given reclaimed water, and in true California fashion there is an herb garden. The lounge uses reclaimed redwood from Moffett Field, a trick the San Jose Earthquakes are using at their stadium.

On the other side of the red rollup door is space for a 2nd home team locker room *cough* Raiders *cough*

On the other side of the red rollup door is space for a 2nd home team locker room *cough* Raiders *cough*

The last part of the tour was spent at field level. The grass looks ready to be torn up and resodded again, though it has gone through two games with few incidents compared to the first batch, which didn’t take. The 49ers’ next home game is on November 2, which will give 3 weeks for new sod to take hold if the work begins Sunday or Monday. Midseason resodding at least the areas between the hash marks is a common ritual for all NFL stadia with grass.

We entered one of two BNY Mellon clubs, which are located along either sideline at the 50 yard line. They’re swanky and feature the best food and drinks. The 49ers copied the Cowboys by incorporating the soccer-style midfield entrance from the locker rooms. The visiting locker room is on the north end, the 49ers to the south. Two auxiliary locker rooms are on the north end, as is the Gold Rush (cheerleaders) dressing room, a rarity among NFL stadia. The picture above shows a large rollup door that provides entry to a potential second home locker room, presumably for the Raiders if they every showed interest. I’ve heard the Raiders are interested in something else in the area temporarily, but that’s for another post. The locker room is not finished and would require a lease agreement between the 49ers, Raiders, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, and the NFL before any substantive work could begin. That said, it shouldn’t take more than an offseason to get it ready.

Our tour group spent 90% of our time within the area defined by the SAP Tower, which is unfortunate. Every stadium tour should include a walk through at least half a concourse if not a whole loop. It makes it seem like there’s nothing to see in the other three-fourths of the stadium, when that obviously isn’t the case. I hope the 49ers incorporate that into future tours somehow. After all, they’re trying to sell seats and that’s where most of the seats are, right?

I’m headed back to Levi’s Stadium to take in the Friday Night Lights doubleheader. I’ll be roaming around, taking more pictures. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or hit me up via Twitter.

60 thoughts on “Levi’s Stadium Tour

  1. When I went on the tour and they took us by the second ‘home locker room’, the tour guide said, “And back there is the space for a second home locker room for ‘they who shall not be named'”.

  2. Can we infer that the NFL wants the Raiders in Levi’s, even though the Raiders don’t want Levi’s?

    • I think we can do more than infer. Goodell said it outright…

      That said, when have the Raiders ever cared what the NFL wants?

  3. I do wonder if the Raiders will actually win football games at Levi Stadium. Shit that good enough karma will make Raider fans ignore the red seats. You know it’s just a place to watch football. In fact it might be better to go to Raider games (it would be a short cut in prices to go to a new stadium) lol sorry Santa clara.

  4. no tour of the 49ers home locker room?

    how inner centric is the overall feel of the stadium? there were complaints by niners fans after the first preseason game that i heard and read that they felt it didn’t represent the niners org enough especially when you sat in your seats and viewed the surroundings?

    anybody ask about a potential ring of honor circling the facade of the stadium? thought i read that was going to happen but don’t think its been done yet.

    any other q’s&a’s asked about the stadium from those who took the tour?

    • It’s shocking how little team history is in the stadium bowl and concourses. There’s no Ring of Fame or retired numbers. Only acknowledgement is the padding on the field walls: “5 Time Super Bowl Champions.”

      • yeah the retired #s is a surprised, they had that feature above the upper deck at candlestick yet haven’t done so at levi’s?

        so maybe the nfl didn’t allow the niners to go all “niner crazy” with their design of the stadium just as you noted the nfl had restrictions of what az could do with their univ of phx stadium design hat you posted about in the previous thread?

        maybe that’s why the niners decided to have a part of their museum dedicated to a hall of statues rather than putting them out in display out in the open?

  5. I’ve never heard this mentioned before but Levi looks like the o.co perfected… in all it’s asymetrical glory. The SAP Tower is the new Mt. Davis…

  6. It’s pretty clear the NFL would like the Raiders to play at Levi’s and is not going to be interested in throwing $200 million at a second Bay area stadium.

  7. agreed the nfl doesn’t want a second billion dollar stadium built within what 40-50 miles from one another. raiders when trask was there wanted to get the joint venue done but those above her declined the offer as imo pride got in the way over a good business relationship.

    that may very well have cost the raiders a opportunity to stay in the bay area for the long term as i don’t see an nfl stadium being built at the current coliseum site.

  8. also i don’t know if the niners use the tunnel at midfield opposite of the suite tower. the initial plan was to have it just like what dal does at at&t. but since harbaugh switched the niners sidelines to just in front of the suite tower due to harbaugh not wanting the sun to beating down on his players on that far sideline if you’re watching it from television which if you saw that kc game last sun the sun’s heat was likely shining on the kc players all game long.

    that decision in terms of on the field could give the niners sort of a home field advantage, at least during the early weeks of the season when it’s usually hotter in sep-early oct compared to the summer months and especially will be hotter then what is will be later in the season when the overall temp goes down. though with that change think i’ve seen when the niner players coming out for pre game intros they’re coming out from the southeast tunnel of the stadium.

    if that’s the case then i could see why they do that considering if they went thru the midfield tunnel as was the plan and as what the dal players do in their pre game intros the niners would essentially be running thru the sideline of the opposing team which would be kind of awkward especially when the opponent likely will be on their sidelines already when the niners are introduced unless they’re forced to stand and or practice away from their sidelines like near the end zones during niner player intros.

    • I agree that Levi Stadium is what the Coliseum upgrade should have been. I personally feel if Mark Davis stayed in Oakland the city should let him have the Coliseum and the A’s can build a ballpark next to it. Right pjk???

      • Since Oakland can’t help pay for new stadiums, the buildings have to be subsidized by other commercial and residential development in what is now the parking lot of the Coliseum. There is not enough land to go around to subsidize two stadiums worth a total of $1.5 billion. The best bet is to let the A’s have the parking lot and tell the Raiders they can’t be accommodated.

      • in the end the possible renovation and rebuilding of the current coliseum may not be as far fetched of the most ideal and realistic scenario that keeps the raiders in oakland/bay area long term.

        i still don’t think the raiders under their current regime wants to share levi’s stadium for the long term, though i don’t doubt they regret their decision in not getting in with the niners from the very start to make it a joint venue. at this time i could see them playing there for a season or two while a reconstruction of the current coliseum is done to make it as close to a new nfl venue as you could make it.

        i don’t know how much that kind of project would take but it won’t be anywhere near the billion dollars it’ll take to build a new nfl stadium at the current coliseum location.

  9. They are giving away free tours to local schools. My son’s Fremont class visiting this year.

  10. Beautiful looking stadium. The Davis’ look pretty stupid.

  11. don’t know if it’d call it beautiful but i don’t see how it’s anything much different than the “cookie cutter” type venues built in the nfl over the past decade like lincoln financial in phi, heinz in pit, gillette in ne.

    i don’t see many calling those visually stunning nfl stadiums yet for some reason levi’s has been getting a lot of negative reaction. seems like most had hoped for a at&t replica in terms of awe due to the niners spending a billion dollars on levi’s but i doubt you could ever have gotten what the cowboys built here locallyl. a billion plus in dallas/texas doesn’t get you the same thing a billion plus will get you here in the bay area.

    just check out the home prices between the two areas and see how much more you can get for your money outside of the bay area especially in the stat of texas.

    • There aren’t really aesthetic masterpiece stadiums in the NFL. That’s the domain of MLB.

    • Agreed. I mean it’s not a bad stadium, but having seen Levis up close I was less than impressed with it. It looks like a giant white erector set overall with very little in the way of character. Other than the tower, which does evoke images of Mt Davis minus the upper deck which isn’t a good thing.

      I still think the class of the late 80’s and later NFL stadium boom is Centurylink Field up in Seattle. It’s one of the few NFL venues built since Dolphin Stadium started the latest boom that really has an all around design to it. Some of the others have an outside design while being basic on the inside like Arizona or vice versa, but Centurylink is a large, substantial, but also beautiful building both inside and out which is rare for an NFL venue.

  12. The home price difference is mostly based on land cost rather than construction cost. Labor is a bit more (due to the high cost of living), but not overwhelmingly so.

    While most of the criticism seems to be aimed at the access problems, I do find it weird that there is basically no overhang. With the lack of luxury boxes on three sides, you should be able to have a substantial overhang given that each level does not need to be artificially raised to allow for suites (compare Tiger Stadium with Comerica Park). But it seems like they went the other way, which defeats the purpose of cramming all the boxes on one side. The end result is that you have a stadium where a higher percentage of seats are facing the sun than anywhere else, and for no real reason.

  13. Marine layer ; you Giants band wagon fan , go take your panda cap, IPhone 6 (with the Giants skin of course) and your garlic fries and stick them where the sun don’t shine.

  14. Marine Layer,

    Can you give us a tour of the improvements at the Coliseum like the West Side Club?

    The West Side Club is as impressive as anything at Levi’s Stadium yet the Coliseum is referred by many SF and SJ types as a “dump.”

    Levi’s Stadium is a waste of 1.3 billion dollars in my humble opinion.

    The place is ugly, uncomfortable as far as roasting in the heat, and has horrible access.

    • Elmano: Have you been to Levi’s? Then how would you know that the West Side Club is as impressive? The problem you have with Levi’s is the zip code it’s in, which does not identify the building as being in Oakland. It’s nice that anyone with a cheap ticket can get into the West Side Club, though. Something not possible with the club areas in other buildings I even had someone give me behind-the-dugout seats in that club, an upgrade from my upstairs seats.

    • @Elmano – Why would I give a tour of improvements that are nearly 20 years old and have been visited by 99% of the readership?

      Only a terribly bitter, biased individual would say – without seeing or experiencing, no less – that the Coliseum’s club facilities are on par with Levi’s Stadium. It’s not even the same galaxy.

  15. Not in the same galaxy? Really. None of the photos you show are any more impressive than the luxury bar with the big screen TV’s and the glass wall restaurant at the West Side Club at the Coliseum.

    Why would Davis want to relocate to an inaccessible, ugly, uncomfortable, stadium with horrible public transportation, a hotter climate, and farther from his fan base.

    What exactly do the Oakland Raiders gain from this? They give up a stadium which was renovated with two club areas, has its own Bart station, easy freeway access, cooler climate, etc, just to be second fiddle in the big ugly mistake in suburban Santa Clara?

    Mark Davis is exactly right not to want to put Raider fans through the misery and discomfort 49er fans are being put through.

    • @Elmano – You mean the non-HDTV big screen TV’s? The terrible lines to get food or drinks at the WSC? The definitely lower grade of food? The WSC and ESC are clubs in name, not in appointment. I don’t consider Levi’s as good as AT&T/Cowboys Stadium. At least those two are comparable. It’s absolutely pathetic of you to judge without experiencing it, and then when backed in a corner, bring up completely unrelated issues. Just pathetic. Not that it matters all that much for the Raiders, since they don’t sell club seats much anyway. Could it be that they don’t sell club seats well because no one is impressed with their club facilities? Think about it.

      • Haven’t premium suites for Raiders games always sold at a fraction of what the 49ers get, even when the 49ers were still at Candlestick? The market for premium seating in the East Bay has been shown to just not be there.

      • I was going to ask you about this. Having been to the club facilities in Cowboys Stadium… It’s hard to imagine any stadium having anything that resembles that. I have only been to three NFL stadiums (I LOVE baseball, slightly more than tolerate football). Those are Cowboys Stadium, Candlestick and the Coliseum. While the Coliseum is clearly better from a fan experience perspective than Candlestick was… I’d say that the Coliseum isn’t even in a Galaxy that can be seen via telescope from Cowboys Stadium. We all know Candlestick was friggin’ dump.

  16. What terrible lines to get food at the West Side Club? So you know the TV’s next to the beautiful mahogany bar are not HD? They sure look pretty clear to me.

    Speaking of lines, I understand there are plenty of long lines at Levi’s Stadium.

    You may buy the hype and look the other way at all the problems that currently plague Levi’s Stadium but I won’t. Let’s be fair. You’re very critical of the Coliseum but you let the glaring issues at Levi’s Stadium slide.

    • Elmano: You sound extremely bitter that the 49ers have been able to get a new stadium in the Bay Area while the Raiders have not, and as a result will probably ending up relocating.

    • @Elmano – I’m writing a review right now that will point out numerous deficiencies at Levi’s. Maybe you’re the one that’s overly quick to judge.

      Not HD sets or broadcasts. Terrible lines at the bar during A’s games, not sure about Raiders games. Everyone’s critical of the Coliseum. Why? Because by many objective standards (facilities, the deal, quality of renovation, comparison to competing venues) it’s absolutely mediocre or worse. It’s okay for you to admit that. No one will pull your “Mr. Oakland” title for calling a spade a spade. The crowds are great. The stadium is not. Learn to separate the two, and get over it.

  17. The Raiders performance on the field has shown that there is no market for luxury suites for a consistently bad team in Oakland. Levi’s Stadium would be the same way if the Forty Niners had the Raiders record for the last 12 years.

    PJK, it seem that you’re the one with “zip code” problems.

    • Poor sales of Raiders suites and tickets have mostly been the norm since Day 1 in 1995, no? Resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in debt that Alameda County taxpayers were never supposed to have.

  18. PJK,

    The initial luxury box sales and seat licenses were bungled with huge non-life time fees. PJK, I think you know this but you would rather attribute the bungled luxury suite pricing and the seat licensing along with the horrible record on the Raider’s “Zip Code.”

    You’re saying that the problems the Raiders have are because they’re located in Oakland. It’s a “zip code” problem for you.

  19. Marine Layer,

    I’m looking forward to the critique of Levi’s Stadium. I hope you’re including the accessibility issues, no shade in most of the stadium, as well as the lines and security problems.

  20. If anyone wants to check out Levi’s (non-tour) Groupon has the Cal/Oregon game for as little as $39. And Club Seats “discounted” from $237 to $149! Who thought Cal would have the kind of demand in the South Bay to ask $237/ticket?

  21. Holding the CAL game at Levi’s Stadium was a horrible idea. I’ve heard that many season ticket holders are furious.

    Cal just renovated Memorial Stadium which turned out much nicer than the new Levi’s Stadium. The Berkeley stadium has a beautiful historic facade and sits in a beautiful setting. The place has so much more character than that charmless inaccessible oven in Santa Clara.

    • You can compare Memorial Stadium to Levi’s without ever going to Levi’s? You are really, really incredible.

    • HA! Someone talking about inaccessibility and Cal in the same sentence and having the gall to insinuate that Cal has easy access… Now THAT is rich. Wouldn’t doubt that Nav has never been to either stadium…

      • Cal Memorial Stadium is a great place to see a game but accessible it is not. There are fewer stadiums that are harder to get to than that place.

  22. With all do respect ML, sometimes I wonder if you are Elmano? He has a great skill to always take the opposite side and drive tons of comments.

    “we are in a drought” ==> Elmano “no we are not, oakland has so much water, oakland has better clouds!”

    😉

  23. Its just year 0 at a new stadium, enjoy it while its still has the new stadium smell. I wonder if the 49ers can erect some sort shading to help alleviate the sun and heat during August and September. Still I rather have those issues than having to sit in snow and wind like I do when I visit my family in Chicago during November and December.

    • If they had taken Jean Quan’s advice, they could have built a roof on the stadium for the low low price of hundreds of millions of dollars more… in a location that is never extremely hot or cold during football season. Oh wait, that plan is still (stupidly) on the table (sort of) for the Raiders.

      I totally agree with you that dealing with some mild heat is a hell of a lot better problem to have than dealing with snow and wind.

  24. Come on guys. Memorial stadium has two Bart stations within walking distance. You have the Rockridge station in north Oakland and the downtown Berkeley station just down Center Street.

    • The Downtown Berkeley station is almost exactly 1 mile from the stadium as per Google’s walking directions. Ashby and North Berkeley stations are 2.1 miles and Rockridge is right in there at 2.0 miles. Stanford Stadium, ATT, The Coliseum/Oracle, SAP Center, Levi’s, and soon to be the new Earthquakes Stadium are all closer to rail transit than Memorial Stadium.

    • Driving to Memorial Stadium is a nightmare; parking is even worse. The BART stations are quite a distance and you have to walk up and down hills to get to the stadium and back. Or, hope to get a seat on one of those buses. Take the car to the BART to the bus to the stadium. And how is that easy?

      • You can park at the Rockridge Bart station and either walk a very pleasant two miles down College Avenue in Oakland and Berkeley, or you can take one of the AC transit buses down College. I prefer the lovely walk which is one of my favorites in Oakland and Berkely.

        You can also take the downtown Berkeley Bart station and walk up Center Street and through the beautiful Cal campus. This is also a very nice walk.

  25. The 49ers made a big mistake not including a rim around the stadium to provide some shade. August, September and October can be hot in Santa Clara.

    • Maybe if you’re a Canadian and your definition of a scorcher is 80 degrees.

    • Funny you should mention a rim around the stadium. The new Earthquakes stadium has exactly that. And who is building that stadium with no taxpayer funds? Some guy named Lew Wolff. Sounds like somebody you would admire, Elmano.

  26. This week, it is the traffic. Next week, it is the sun. The week after, it is wind. and the week after that, it will be the water.. and the beat keeps on and on…maybe the 49ers should go back to the beautiful Stick

    • Elmano will continue to have a litany of criticism of Levi’s Stadium, because his Raiders can’t and won’t get a new stadium in the Bay Area.

      • Well with any luck those complaints of his will end in February when his Raiders move back to LA…

  27. 1. I think we can all agree that the 49ers needed a new stadium to replace Candlestick.
    2. The 49ers can always adjust the stadium (slightly) to increase shade or alleviate other issues.
    3. I’m a big fan of East Bay sports (this includes Cal) and you’d be crazy to say that Memorial has great access. I do like the walk from the stadium through Elmwood and RR Bart, But, it is not great access if it takes a long walk from the bus stop or BART to get to. I didn’t have a car when I lived in Oakland/Berkeley, but Memorial has the same amount of parking as Ebbet’s Field or the Polo Grounds ( nearly zero to none). I haven’t been to new memorial, but the access issues are the same.
    4. The Raiders should move to Levi’s.
    5. GO A’S!

  28. I say let’s do a “do-over”. Give the stadium to the Raiders, and let’s build a proper stadium in San Francisco

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