With red, white and gold confetti streamers flying about, champagne flowing and a lavish reception, Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” would have been the perfect theme song for the ribbon cutting of Levi’s Stadium on July 17.
A who’s who of Bay Area politicos, luminaries, civic leaders and business representatives attended the bountiful celebration that was decades in the making.
Following cyclic remarks on the grandeur of the stadium, aptly dubbed by 49ers CEO Jed York as the “most phenomenal outdoor sports entertainment venue in the world,” the 1,500-plus attendees enjoyed an array of food selections from the stadium’s vast menu, live entertainment and camaraderie. The over-the-top, invite-only reception included a tribute to the over 1,000 stadium construction workers. Just prior to the ribbon cutting, hundreds of hard-hatters marched down the red-carpeted stairs in the main entry plaza to a standing ovation and deafening round of applause.
“Generations of dreams and aspirations … Great City Councils and great leaders have paved the way for making this come to fruition,” said Mayor Jamie Matthews. “It took a community to raise a stadium,” he added, citing the citizens who voted to move forward with the stadium in the Measure J election.
“We have had full confidence in staff and management in making this an amazing fan experience,” added Matthews. “We had the best people making the best stadium ever. We also had the unrelenting commitment from the York family — Jed is truly one of the greatest leaders of his generation.”
York took time to thank numerous individuals. “An unbelievable stadium like this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long-term vision … Santa Clara is very forward-looking and the vision helped shape what we see here today … it is amazing and mind boggling how much time they’ve put into this.” Among those York thanked were former City Managers Don Von Raesfeld and Jennifer Sparacino.
York said the 49ers have been working toward a new stadium since the 1990s, adding, “Most importantly, we built Levi’s Stadium without raising taxes on Santa Clara residents and without negatively impacting the City’s general fund,” something he said Sparacino was very adamant about in negotiations.
In addition to lively concoctions to tempt any palette, the celebration featured a celebratory champagne toast by Dr. John York, appearances by the Gold Rush cheerleaders and Sourdough Sam, as well as photo opportunities with the ribbon cutting scissors and ribbon. 49ers players, including All-Pro LB Patrick Willis and recently re-signed Tackle Joe Staley joined a number of 49ers alumni in the pomp and circumstance as well. Niners Noise and a five-piece jazz ensemble provided entertainment.
Putting pressure on Coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers players, York added, “the only thing we haven’t delivered on is a parade on Market Street in San Francisco after winning a Super Bowl.”
While the stadium’s first event is on August 2, Matthews went elaborated on the bigger picture, “Today we do more than open the stadium. Today we change the very trajectory of our city and our region … this is a place where history and generations of memories will be made. This will bring the eyes of the world – not only to the City Santa Clara but to the greatest region on the planet … Our stadium is proving to be an amazing catalyst for economic development. Levi’s Stadium will be the centerpiece of a thriving entertainment district.”
Some are calling Levi’s Stadium the field of dreams. Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella in the movie Field of Dreams famously said, “if you build it he will come.” They are coming. WrestleMania. The Pac-10 Title Game. The San Francisco Bowl. Monster Jam. Monster Energy Supercross. Super Bowl 50. And, a lot more. They are coming to Santa Clara for much more than a Celebration.