Amidst pomp and grandeur, Levi’s Stadium officially opened on Aug. 2 with a majority of the 48,765 attendees enjoying the debut of the $1.3 billion stadium.
Still in an information-gathering mode, management plans on improving in a number of aspects. Concerns by fans included a shortage of concessions, parking and traffic problems and minor glitches such as signage woes.
“The excitement and smiles on the faces of people as they walked through the gates and viewed Levi’s Stadium for first time said it all,” said Mayor Jamie Matthews. “The excitement and pride was palpable … The purpose of this first game was to test our plans and identify areas and opportunities for refinement. Although we have some work to do, it was a great first event … as good as it went, it will only get better.”
Traffic and Public Transportation
One of the major transportation complaints was the flock of fans departing the stadium by VTA. Colleen Valles, Spokesperson, VTA said 9,034 total riders utilized VTA to get to and from the stadium, (8,327 riders by light rail, 707 by bus) each way, on top of the regular Saturday ridership of 20,500. A sea of customers departed California’s Great America and Levi’s Stadium concurrently, as the Great America fireworks show ended about the same time as the game.
According to Valles, “VTA is reviewing the entire service plan, looking at the things that went well and those areas where we need to make some improvements.” Several things went well, “for instance, the five Express bus lines that came in from various parts of the county performed really well.” In addition, more than 9,000 passengers were moved safely, and “safety is our No. 1 priority. We feel that was a success.”
“Of course some things can be improved, such as passenger wait times and some overcrowding issues,” added Valles. “One challenge in providing service is determining where people are coming from so that we can deploy resources to the appropriate areas. Most came from south of the stadium, though that would likely change with 49ers games, when we would expect more people coming down the Peninsula.”
VTA is nearing completion of a “pocket track” on Tasman, which will allow VTA to store three 3-car trains (total capacity approximately 2,000), ready to deploy to help handle the surge of passengers leaving the stadium. The “pocket track” will be ready for the 49ers’ pre-season game on Aug. 17.
Vice President Of Stadium Operations & Security Jim Mercurio said one major traffic glitch unfurled with a medical incident at a “pinpoint” location at Stars & Stripes and Centennial Boulevard. Traffic snarled from three lanes to one for incoming traffic. Mercurio thought two lanes should have remained open to traffic – “it was a mistake – but we learn and we improve from these mistakes.” Fire and medical calls in the vicinity also affected traffic.
“Anyone who doesn’t think there will be traffic with that volume of vehicles leaving from one place, at one time, is misinformed … Even with 50 lanes of egress, there would still be traffic.”
Another glitch was with a stop sign at Stars & Stripes and Centennial Boulevard near David’s Restaurant. Mercurio said people inherently stop at the sign, despite officers instructing drivers to proceed through it without stopping, an issue that occurred at Candlestick. Like at Candlestick, a green “go” sign will be placed over the stop sign on event days. In addition, signage will be placed directing people to specific lots. Of the residential street patrol, Mercurio said Calle Del Sol will need better screening.
Concessions – Variety of Foods Sell Out
Many fans voiced displeasure with certain concessions selling out.
According to Mercurio, some concession stands were hit harder than others, primarily attributed to utilization of the space, which was different than that of a football game. With Great America open, the South End concessions were crushed, largely due to the South End parking lots being fully utilized by Great America.
“People have very legitimate gripes – these are things that can only helps us for next time.”
All Systems Worked Well
Traffic and minor glitches aside, Mercurio said, “we had a lot of wins, the first being having approximately 4,000 workers getting outfitted, trained and here … not everyone is perfect, but we feel everyone was welcoming and quite friendly. We are looking to inform the workers even further so they can better instruct people – two million square feet is a lot to cover. They did a great job, but we can and will do better.”
According to Mercurio, all systems worked well – “All the things people take for granted until they don’t work well, worked, said Mercurio – things like lighting, elevators, escalators, running water and flushing toilets. When outages did happen, “our engineers were on top of the issues with quick resolve.”
Mercurio added that on Sunday morning, most would never have known how many people and cars were in the area. “Our parking team was able to restore the streets of Santa Clara to normalcy quickly.” With nearly 50,000 at Levi’s Stadium and an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 at Great America, Saturday’s “dual event” was close to capacity. Great America will be closed on all 49ers game days.
Security and Safety
According to Lt. Kurt Clarke, PIO, Santa Clara Police Department, only two arrests were made on game day, both before the game and off-site. The first was for public intoxication on an exterior lot, and the second was a warrant arrest, stemmed by a call pertaining to alleged counterfeit merchandise – the man selling the merchandise had outstanding warrants. Clarke adds there were no in-game or post-game incidents.
“The soccer event was a springboard for future events,” said Clarke. “We think we have the best plan in place, but it will change.” Adjustments are always being made, he said, adding that no event is the same.
Quakes Fans Speak Out
A number of Quakes fans discussed the good and bad of Levi’s Stadium on Center Line Soccer’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/centerlinesoccer). Teresa Stefanisko said positives included being able to sit down and eat out of the sun in the Yahoo! Lounge, the variety of food, ordering in-seats, escalators to upper areas and cup holders and bag holders at the seats. Like several Quakes fans and season ticket holders, she thought, “season ticket holders were treated as trash. Seats sucked compared to where we sit at Buck Shaw.” Stefanisko also mentioned the NFL Bag policy, confusing signage and lack of signage for Epicenter or team stores as negatives.
Phillip Luna countered, saying despite the bag policy, “they [the stadium] were prepared for over sized bags by having lockers just outside the stadium, and they stopped people before they proceeded to get in line.” Luna added the big screens “caught my eye from outside and they were amazing. The food kiosks look great and there is a huge variety of food options.”
Luna said walking to the stadium didn’t feel pedestrian safe, citing lackluster mapping and information. He also mentioned that the TVs in the concession areas had a 15-second delay.
Frank Quezada said he felt Levi’s Stadium is a “beautiful venue, can’t lie about that, I love it. But my major complaint is the restrictions placed on the support groups – no flags, no paint banners, no drums – this kills the culture and traditions of the world’s most popular sport … I understand that this was a test since it was the first major event at the stadium but I hope they evaluate this issue and come back down to Earth next year when we play there again.”
Jeannie Whitlock mentioned no infant changing tables in any of the women’s restrooms as an issue, adding that the two family restrooms had one long line because they only hold one at a time.
Concerns of Bicyclists
Richard Masoner, Publisher of Cyclelicio.us biked to the stadium via the San Tomas Aquino Bike Trail and brought up a number of issues. Masoner said some of his concerns were lack of, or incorrect, public information, insufficient bike parking, personnel lacking knowledge of the proper bicycle storage and bike routes and misguided trail detours.
“I am committed, and I know our Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee is very committed, to making sure that we have the best bicycle and pedestrian access to Levi’s Stadium that we possibly can … The transportation evaluation in the EIR on the stadium, now done about five years ago, included bicyclists, pedestrians, and robust use of public transit in measuring impacts of the stadium, so we need to ensure that those elements of the transportation plan are working at peak efficiencies,” said Council Member Teresa O’Neill, who serves on the bicycle committee. “The Boston Marathon bombing was a tragedy, and we are feeling the ripple effects, particularly in how STA trail users access the stadium. Security procedures have forced us to limit the trail use on event days more than we envisioned even a year ago. But I really want to be sure that we have excellent alternative bike and pedestrian routes to the stadium, and a secure place for cyclists to leave their bikes during stadium events.”
According to Mercurio, the 750 bicycle spaces available at the stadium are greater than management expects to see needed on any event day.