Levi’s Stadium set to show off innovations at Super Bowl

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — When architects set out to design a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, they wanted a building that fit the Silicon Valley region where it is located.

Retro was out. High-tech and green-friendly were in.

That was mostly accomplished at the $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium when it opened in the summer of 2014. There’s the in-stadium app that allows fans to watch replays, order food and figure out which bathrooms have the shortest line; the environmentally friendly features that help the stadium achieve zero net energy use on game days; and the open-air feel that helps fans take in the Bay Area.

After 18 months of mostly good reviews for events ranging from football to concerts to WrestleMania and even an outdoor hockey game, Levi’s Stadium truly arrives on the big stage Feb. 7 when more than 100 million people will watch it host the Super Bowl between Denver and Carolina. After the game in Santa Clara, the Super Bowl will shift to Houston and NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl XXXVII in 2004 when it was then called Reliant Stadium. The 2018 big game will be played in Minnesota, at the soon-to-be-completed U.S. Bank Stadium, which is set to open in time for the coming NFL season. The 2019 and ’20 game sites are yet to be determined, but the finalists are New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, Miami and Los Angeles, where the Rams will begin play in 2016.

Regardless of where the game is hosted in coming years, this year’s game promises to have a futuristic feel.

“We set out to design the next generation of the NFL stadium,” said Tim Cahill, a senior vice president and chief design officer at HNTB Corporation, the firm that designed Levi’s Stadium. “That’s what we’re most proud of.”

The stadium was originally designed to be at Candlestick Point, where the 49ers played from 1971-2013. But then the York family that owns the team decided to locate it at the team’s full-time facility more than 40 miles away in Santa Clara in the middle of Silicon Valley.

Levi’s Stadium was home to the first mobile app designed to enhance every aspect of a fan’s stadium experience, from steering fans to their parking spots to identifying the least-crowded restrooms. Fans can order food and drinks that can be delivered directly to their seats and watch replays from four different camera angles on their phones or tablets.

With as many as 70,000 fans using devices throughout the game, the designers had to create a backbone that could handle that kind of heavy use. The stadium features 400 miles of fiber optic cable providing stadium-wide Wi-Fi capability and HD video boards.

Lanson Nichols, a vice president and senior projects manager at HNTB, said Levi’s has triple the fiber-optic backbone of other NFL stadiums as part of the plan to “future-proof” the building.

“Being in the heart of Silicon Valley it just became a natural that this had to be the most advanced stadium in the country just being in the middle of that culture,” Nichols said. “People expected not just cutting edge, but bleeding edge technology.”

One of the highest priorities in the design was making the stadium as environmentally friendly as possible and that was realized when Levi’s became the first football stadium to receive LEED Gold certification.

That was accomplished with nearly 20,000 square feet of solar panels, a 27,000-square-foot living roof above the suites planted with native California species, 80 percent of the water used coming from recycled water and efficient use of electricity that allows the stadium to be a net zero energy user on game days.

“From day one, that is something the York family and Santa Clara wanted to make a statement that `Why can’t a stadium be green?”‘ Cahill said.

The biggest flaw from the first two seasons of the stadium should not be an issue for the Super Bowl. The 49ers had several problems with the turf at the start that led to players slipping on the grass and chunks of sod coming loose. The team had to move practices this summer out of the stadium because of those issues. But after making changes to the base of the field earlier this season, the turf has mostly held up and should be in good shape for the game.

NFL field director Ed Mangan, working his 27th Super Bowl, oversaw the installation of a brand new field earlier this month. The 75,000 square feet of grass from West Coast Turf in California’s Central Valley was all in place by Jan. 12 and a crew of about three dozen workers has been mowing, painting and protecting the field ever since.

Preparing a field for a Super Bowl is a tall task with it getting heavy use from pregame and halftime performers, who must rehearse at the stadium as well as the players. Mangan’s staff will keep the field tarped as much as possible during those rehearsals to keep it fresh and will do on-the-fly maintenance when necessary after the show on game day.

“It’s not just the game we’re preparing this field for,” he said. “It’s all the activities that will be on this field, the pregame and halftime shows. They all get the field starting this weekend.”

Information from NBCSports.com news services was used in this story.


Don Ohlmeyer, longtime network TV executive, dies at 72

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Don Ohlmeyer, the “Monday Night Football” producer who came up with the phrase “Must See TV” in leading NBC to the No. 1 prime-time spot, died Sunday. He was 72.

“It is with heavy hearts we share that Don Ohlmeyer, our beloved husband, father and grandfather, has passed away at age of 72 due to cancer,” Ohlmeyer’s family said in a statement. “Surrounded by loved ones, he died peacefully at his home in Indian Wells.”

Longtime friend Al Michaels announced Ohlmeyer’s death while broadcasting NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

Ohlmeyer won 16 Emmys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Peabody Awards.

Ohlmeyer became producer of “MNF” in 1972, teaming with director Chet Forte and the on-air crew of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. In 2000 in his second “MNF” stint, Ohlmeyer put comedian Dennis Miller in the booth.

Ohlmeyer first worked for ABC Sports as a gofer while studying at Notre Dame and became a full-time production assistant in 1967 under Roone Arledge, working on “Wide World of Sports.” Along with his “Monday Night Football” work, he directed the network’s Olympic coverage and created “The Superstars.” Later at NBC Sports, he produced World Series and Super Bowl broadcasts.

After running his own Ohlmeyer Communications Company, he returned to NBC in 1993 as president of its entertainment division. He came up with “Must See TV” in the 1990s, when NBC’s rating soared with such hits as “Seinfeld,” ”Friends,” ”ER” and “Frasier.”

Watch Live: New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys on NBC

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The Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants in a battle of NFC East rivals on Sunday Night Football.

Despite going 13-3 and earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last year, the Cowboys lost twice to the Giants in 2016, including a loss in Week 1. Dallas hopes to not have a repeat of last year and will rely on sophomores Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to carry the load. Don’t be surprised if Elliott gets even more carries in this game because there is a possibility his six-game suspension is upheld and he will have plenty of time to rest up before he sees game action again.

The Giants will rely on their strong defense led by DB Landon Collins and DE Jason Pierre-Paul to try and get after Prescott and bottle up Elliott. On offense, New York is all about Eli Manning and the passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to suit up, but it remains to be seen how big of a role he will have after injuring his ankle in the preseason. As a result, look for new additions WR Brandon Marshall and rookie TE Evan Engram, to go along with sophomore WR Sterling Shepard to step up for Manning.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Giants vs. Cowboys

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app