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.

 

Bennett doesn’t fear backlash for skipping White House trip

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HOUSTON (AP) Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett says he is not worried about upsetting team owner Robert Kraft by not attending New England’s trip to the White House as Super Bowl champions.

Bennett said after the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons on Sunday night that he’s “not going to go” to the traditional meet-and-greet with the president. It will be the first visit of a Super Bowl champion to Washington since Donald Trump was sworn into office.

Trump’s positions have alienated some athletes, which has raised questions about whether some might choose to skip the trip while the new president is in office.

But Bennett said he isn’t concerned about it and thinks the team believes “in whatever I want to do.”

Kraft is a supporter of Trump and attended a celebration dinner in Washington for him the night before his inauguration.

Patriots’ Tom Brady earns 4th Super Bowl MVP trophy with epic comeback

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HOUSTON (AP) The greatest quarterback in NFL history led the biggest Super Bowl comeback to be the MVP on Sunday night.

Tom Brady rallied New England from a 25-point third-quarter deficit for a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history to earn his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth MVP trophy.

“They’re all sweet,” he said. “They’re all different and this was just an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Brady threw touchdown passes of 5 and 6 yards in the second half and tied things at 28-28 when he connected withDanny Amendola on a 2-point conversion with 57 seconds left.

He then directed the drive in overtime which ended with a 2-yard run by James White to make the Patriots the first team to win a Super Bowl after trailing by more than 10 points.

“We all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.”

His performance certainly wasn’t without its struggles. His incredible second half and overtime came after a first half where the Patriots managed just three points and he threw an interception which Robert Alford returned 82 yards for a touchdown. He was hurried and harassed for much of the games. The Falcons sacked him five times and hit him on another eight occasions.

He noted the beating he took when he was trying to recount the details of the comeback and couldn’t remember what the score was at one point in the rally.

“There was a lot of (stuff) that happened tonight,” he said. “I got hit pretty hard.”

His 466 yards passing are a Super Bowl record, surpassing the 414 yards Kurt Warner had 17 years ago. He also set a record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl with 43 and most attempts with 62.

He is the first to play in seven Super Bowls and the victory ties him with Charles Haley for most Super Bowl rings.

After all Brady has done in his career, was this his finest moment?

“Tom’s had a lot of great ones,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But, yeah tonight was one of them.”

It’s a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.

“They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”

He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.

“It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.

But he certainly wasn’t asking for sympathy for his rough road to this title though, chuckling when someone asked about the adversity the Patriots have gone through in the past couple of years.

“We’ve done pretty good over the last few years … so I don’t think anyone’s feeling bad for the Patriots,” he said. “I don’t think anyone feels bad for the Patriots.”

Brady also collected the MVP trophy in 2001, 2003 and 2014.

“It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives,” Brady said.

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