While the 49ers’ previous home in Candlestick Park often greeted fans with wind-chilled conditions, the team’s state-of-the-art venue in Santa Clara has the opposite problem, a glaring one to many who visit.
Levi’s Stadium is just too hot and too bright for a lot of fans. A lack of shade coverage on the eastern side of the field exposes many spectators to direct sunlight, especially in September and in August preseason contests, leading to uncomfortable conditions at game time.
Team president Al Guido spoke with Matt Maiocco on the “Inside 49ers” podcast last week, and Guido seemed adamant that there’s no fix coming anytime soon.
“We understand there might be a game or two early in the season that might be warm. We cannot add shade, we cannot build a roof, it’s not possible,” Guido said on the podcast.
Levi’s Stadium is too close to San Jose International Airport to make construction of major shade structures possible, according to Guido.
“I would say a lot of it stems from the FAA regulations, structurally what I would tell you is even if you could do it, it would take years to build to get something up there.”
Fans are none too happy about it.
“The one question in all of this is how these things weren’t vetted before the stadium was built,” Patrick Halloway wrote recently for fan blog Niners Nation. “These are issues that should have been considered and factored when construction began.”
KNBR reports that Levi’s Stadium has dropped the price of bottled water from $6 to $2 in an effort to keep fans cool. Halloway says that isn’t enough — and it forces fans to leave their seats, stand in line and miss part of the game.
Scheduling games later is one other option that’s been experimented with for the preseason, as seen in Thursday night’s 7 p.m. start against the visiting Cowboys. But that late of a start time hinders East Coast fans, and the 49ers can’t regularly air games that interfere with prime-time NFL programming like Sunday Night Football in the regular season.
Santa Clara County and others in the Bay Area have experienced unprecedented heat waves in July that have lingered into August this year. Luckily, the 49ers’ next preseason game Aug. 18 will be on the road, as temperatures in Santa Clara are expected to hit 90 degrees that day.
The 49ers’ heat issue has been noted going back to the stadium’s opening in 2014. That August, a spectator reportedly collapsed of cardiac arrest during a 49ers preseason game and died. While it wasn’t clear at the time whether heat played a role in that man’s death, The Associated Press and the San Jose Mercury News each noted that the 80-plus-degree heat that day prompted a high frequency of emergency response calls.