Anavarathan: Why Silicon Valley failed the 49ers and the 49ers failed Silicon Valley
The San Francisco 49ers moved away from Candlestick Park in 2014 to their new home in Santa Clara -- Levi's Stadium. Personally, I had only been to Candlestick a few times and it was an awful stadium. The facilities weren't great, it wasn't easily accessible and the wind would get in and swirl around the entire stadium.
Yet somehow, it was an amazing experience to watch a game there. I went to games during the pre-Harbaugh years and the Harbaugh years and there was always something special at the 'Stick. Fans didn't care about the actual structure, they were happy to get to witness their 49ers in person. For having less seats than Levi's Stadium, Candlestick Park was far louder than I've ever heard it at Levi's Stadium.
For the past few seasons, the picture that commonly floats around during the second halves of 49ers' home games is the empty side of seats as fans head to the concourse to stay cooler. Mercury News' Ann Killion took this picture right before the start of the second half, showing the infamous 'Sunny side.'
The 49ers handed out Tom Rathman rally towels on Sunday and instead of waving it around, most fans used it to cover their head and neck from the blazing heat.
With such an obvious problem, Jed York, Al Guido and the 49ers' business side must address the problem. With a $2 billion stadium in the heart of Silicon Valley, the 49ers can't continue to let fans leave their hot seats for the concourse. The home-field advantage that Levi's Stadium should present is absolutely nullified. I'm honestly shocked that the planning and construction that went into the stadium couldn't account for the sun in afternoon games. 49ersHub's Scott Young pointed out to me earlier that every stadium these days should come with a retractable roof to avoid these kinds of problems.
The 49ers tried to make Levi's Stadium feel more like a home, by adding signage across the facility with different 49ers' players from the past Championship teams. Yet the stadium itself doesn't have that mystique and aura that Candlestick used to have.
It likely correlates with the fact that the 49ers haven't had a great product on the field since their move to Santa Clara in 2014, but this is a problem that's likely not going to go anywhere as long as the 49ers' management doesn't fix it. The problem is definitely visible in ticket sales. Tickets on the side with some shade are usually far more expensive than the ones on the sunny side. Multiple season-ticket holders have complained to me that it's difficult to get rid of their sunny side tickets because fans are avoiding them.
It's almost embarrassing as that picture from Ann Killion floats around through Twitter. Multiple NFL analysts from other cities were baffled to see how empty Levi's Stadium was. Truth is: the stadium wasn't empty, just the seats were. This is Silicon Valley. The heart of the technology industry and it's shameful that the 49ers can't plan to keep their fans cool during games.
I don't have a solution for the 49ers, but I know that this is a problem that won't go away any time soon and something the 49ers should consider fixing right away.