The product on the field may have been hard to watch Sunday, but at least one 49er liked what he heard during his team’s debut at Levi’s Stadium.
“Just in terms of noise – even compared to the regular season – that was a pretty good volume in there,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said Monday.
Kaepernick said the noise level was louder than it had been 10 days earlier in Baltimore and louder than he remembers from Candlestick Park during August exhibition games.
There may be two reasons for an increase in volume.
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The 49ers had a full house for the first football game at the new venue, and 45,000 of the 68,500 on hand were in the lower bowl. That’s the largest lower section of any NFL stadium, and many of the seats, especially those in the corners of the end zones, are mere feet from the playing field.
The other feature that may make Levi’s louder than Candlestick is the eight-story tower suite on the west side. The team figures the din from the crowd in the lower bowl will reverberate off the glass and metal tower.
“At Ohio State, we had 107,000 (fans), so it was a lot different,” rookie running back Carlos Hyde said. “It’s kind of hard to compare. But the fans were into it. The fans definitely were excited, so that’s good.”
Meanwhile, the playing surface, which resembled a golf fairway to begin the game, looked as if it had hosted a beginner’s tournament afterward. Some sections of the field, which was laid down in April, had been torn up, especially in the middle.
It got mixed reviews from the players.
“It comes up a little bit,” safety Eric Reid said. “We have a few more weeks for it to set in. I think it’ll be fine for Chicago,” the team’s home opener Sept. 14.
Said running back Frank Gore: “Felt fast. It felt great to me, but you know I’ve got great feet, so ”
There won’t be a lot of time to watch the grass grow.
The 49ers will practice at Levi’s Stadium on Wednesday afternoon and will play their third preseason game there against San Diego on Sunday. On Aug. 29, Levi’s will host a high school football doubleheader – including Jesuit vs. De La Salle – and Sept. 6, the Mexican national team will face Chile in soccer.
The players’ favorite feature may have been the locker room, which has 20-foot-high ceilings and walnut lockers. It feels spacious despite having 26 temporary lockers in the middle during the offseason.
Gone are plastic nameplates. Instead every player – from 10-year veterans to undrafted rookies – has a wooden nameplate with his surname carved out of it, and it is backlit when the room is in use.
Even the visitors’ locker room – easily the league’s dingiest and most cramped at Candlestick – is plush, albeit with lower ceilings. Levi’s had to be built with a generous visitors’ space to land the 2016 Super Bowl.
At least one Bronco noticed.
“It was nice. Nicer than nice,” quarterback Peyton Manning said of the stadium experience. “I had heard a lot about it, and of course it was a great day for football.”