Jim Harbaugh once called Candlestick Park a “fortress.” The stadium had awfully long bathroom lines, but it also provided a true home field advantage: a concrete bowl with a primitive visiting locker room and enough history to fill the Smithsonian (or the 49ers’ new museum, at least).
They lost their first game at Candlestick in 1971, and they followed that pattern with a 28-20 loss last night to the Bears in the first regular season game at Levi’s Stadium.
The potential crowd noise has been a discussion since they broke ground in Santa Clara, particularly with the so-called “12th Man” crushing eardrums in Seattle on a weekly basis. The stadium architecture is extremely different at Levi’s than the semi-enclosed, echo-creating stadium known as “The Link.” However, with the stands so much closer to the field, it appeared as if the decibel level at Levi’s might surpass what was heard at the Stick.
Based on Harbaugh’s comments today on the crowd noise last night, Levi’s isn’t a fortress quite yet.
“I noticed, at times, it was good and loud, yeah,” said Harbaugh. “And at times, it could be improved.”
From what I heard and noticed, the fans who attended last night’s game probably aren’t dealing with ringing in their ears today. There are a few obvious reasons for this.
1. 26 penalties — there was no flow to this game whatsoever.
2. Four turnovers by the franchise quarterback. It’s tough to get too excited when Colin Kaepernick keeps stopping momentum on a dime.
3. The 49ers were primed for a blowout win, and the Bears scored 21 straight points in the fourth quarter.
4. The incredibly expensive seats in the first level were about as full as one would expect for a preseason game throughout last night’s regular season debut. The patrons in the upper levels were present for the entire contest, but it appeared that the lure of the spacious stadium club proved too much for many wealthier fans to resist.
You could see it just from looking at the clothes the fans were wearing. It was a sea of red in the second, third and fourth levels, while the first level largely went with business casual shirts in light blue and salmon. Crowds often respond to what they’re seeing, and last night’s game was weird with all the flags and the 49ers losing a 17-0 lead to Jay Cutler. But there’s been a shift, and that probably isn’t going away. The cost for creature comforts isn’t just seen in the prices for SBLs.