San Francisco 49ers, Levi’s Stadium, and Comparison with the British Model of Stadium Development


Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have played their last regular season game in Candlestick Park, having built Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for a new home. Some of the positives are easier access from the highway system, more room, and its closer proximity to the training facilities. The biggest negative is that it is no longer in San Francisco.

This contrasts quite sharply with the English Soccer stadium model. Today I had the privilege of visiting Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, a state-of-the-art soccer facility that blends heritage with modern architecture extremely well. It was built in a residential area and apartments are being built right next to the stadium property. The whole point is that the stadium should be in the middle of town. The only parking lot is a few hundred spaces in an underground car park beneath the stadium. Everyone else is more than happy to walk or come by public transit. (Think about this compared to the big uproar over having to take public transit for the Super Bowl this year.) One more note: it was built completely with private funds, paid for by the building and leasing of apartments.

Arsenal’s rivals, Tottenham Hotspur (who, incidentally, I support in that league that I pay far less attention to than the greatest game in the world), are in the midst of their own stadium project. After much conniving and frowned-upon behavior, they secured some public funding. (Many people are still livid that they secured any public funding at all.) They also are having to build a shopping center and housing estates as part of the deal. Again, the stadium is designed to be in the middle of a London community.

American stadiums tend to use large swathes of public funds, often are built on the outskirts of town or even miles out of it, and are designed to accommodate large numbers of drivers and cars.

Which route is better? I will let you decide. I will say, however, no stadium in the world, not even the Emirates, will be able to compare to the software opportunities to be provided soon by Levi’s Stadium.

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