SANTA CLARA – The game will go down in the Major League Soccer history books as a 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes win over the Seattle Sounders in front of 48,765 fans, but for the sports community of Northern California, the game meant so much more.
Gone is the lovable, but outdated, Candlestick Park and replacing it is Levi’s Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers’ new high-tech $1.2 billion, 68,500-capacity jewel of a stadium that used the MLS contest as a test run before the upcoming NFL season.
And fans have to see it to believe it.
“The facilities are obviously amazing. It’s an honor to come back home and play here,” said Seattle defender and 2007 Davis High graduate Jalil Anibaba.
With Wi-Fi access points under every 100 seats and 1,500 Bluetooth beacons, the stadium has the greatest bandwidth of any U.S. stadium, according to team officials.
Not only is it high-tech, but it’s green as well, with 27,000 square feet of solar panels that generate enough energy year-round to power 10 games each year.
Oh, and there’s a smartphone app that lets fans order food and beer and have it delivered directly to their seats — something that undoubtedly will be used when Levi’s Stadium hosts Super Bowl 50 in 2016.
The Bay Area and Silicon Valley finally have a stadium that actually identifies with the region’s startup, tech-savvy culture.
The game also served as somewhat of a homecoming for Anibaba, who played the first three seasons of his college career at nearby Santa Clara University before transferring to North Carolina for his senior year.
“A lot of friends, a lot of family (attended the match),” Anibaba said. “It’s good to be back in the area. I even used to come around to the sports complex and play youth games here, so I have a lot of good memories here.”
Anibaba spent the first three years of his MLS career with the Chicago Fire before he was traded this past offseason to Seattle (11-6-6), where he has struggled to find regular playing time until recently. He has started and played 90 minutes in each of the last six games for the Western Conference’s first-place team.
The actual match was somewhat of a drab affair with the only goal scored right before halftime as U.S. National Team forward Chris Wondolowski chipped a through ball to Yannick Djalo, who slotted home the first goal in stadium history.
After that, the struggling Earthquakes (6-8-5) held on for the win as fireworks went off in the background at neighboring Great America.
Notes: The San Jose Earthquakes, who will open their own new 18,000-seat stadium next year near the San Jose International Airport, have signed a deal with the 49ers to host one regular-season game a year at Levi’s Stadium for each of the next five years. … The stadium is expandable to 75,000 capacity for large events.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam