49ers' new stadium aims to be smartest

The 49ers' new Santa Clara stadium, scheduled to open in 2014, may be a Super Bowl host. Courtesy of San Francisco 49ers

So you’re an NFL owner in the process of building a new football stadium. There’s probably one question on your mind: “How do I outdo Cowboys Stadium?”

Well, San Francisco has the answer.

The 49ers, in action on "Monday Night Football" tonight at Arizona, have built one of the best teams in the NFL. Now the organization is hoping to build the league’s smartest stadium.

On schedule for a 2014 opening, the new Santa Clara stadium, yet to be officially named, is located about 40 miles south of Candlestick Park, the 49ers’ home since 1971.

The idea with Santa Clara isn’t to be bigger. It’s to be better, which means innovative and built for the future.

“We’re not going to try to be the biggest and the baddest, but the smartest,” says Bob Lange, 49ers director of PR. “[We’re] planning to bring together the best of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley in the new stadium.”

Although the stadium will seat about the same number of fans as Candlestick Park -- 68,500 -- Lange says the differences will be obvious in its outstanding food and beverage selection, along with technology and sustainability.

That, too, comes with challenges. In an epic game of tech one-upmanship, the battle to install new technologies is met with fingers crossed that those technologies will stay relevant for some time.

Lange says the goal is to maximize efficiency and versatility through new tech infrastructure and a focus on the growing trend of BYOD (bring your own device).

“We are planning to be a stadium driven by software, not hardware,” Lange says. "The new Santa Clara stadium will not only incorporate the best hardware available but also have the ability to adapt to ever-changing technology. We look to provide our fans the opportunity to utilize their own personal devices to enhance their game-day experience. With new technology hitting the market frequently (iPads, smartphones), we want our tech infrastructure to be adaptable and our hardware to be scalable.”

Using this approach, the 49ers are looking into a number of potential ways fans can access information via apps, such as viewing multiple camera angles and replays during the game, listening to radio feeds, scoping out the length of concession and bathroom lines, or gauging traffic outside the stadium.

Like the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, you might be able to order your food right from your seat -- no more worrying about missing a big play while waiting in line for nachos. Every one of the 165 luxury suites will have an iPad that can order food, merchandise and more.

Size does matter to the 49ers, but designers are discerning about where to make the most of that space. The width of the concourse is three times that of Candlestick, and there are club sections on the field level bringing fans closer to the teams.

Another goal is to power the stadium by the sun. Eight home games per season -- with fans hoping for 10 -- will take more than just a game day of collected sunshine. The Santa Clara team is looking into the most efficient way to gather solar energy all year round.

Speaking of going green, the 49ers also plan to have a 27,000-foot green rooftop plaza, which will serve as a hangout area where fans can kick back with a beer and a hot dog, surrounded by green shrubbery. (Check out the solar panels in the background of the garden/green roof concept drawings.)

The 49ers have used a number of virtual approaches to give season-ticket holders and inquirers a practical taste of what to expect. A preview center gives access to a nine-foot digital touch wall (think of it like a gigantic mounted iPad) that takes viewers on a virtual walk-through of the stadium, showcasing different areas, highlighting renderings and illustrating vantage points. An online 3-D viewing option also shows a mockup of different views.

With a new state-of-the-art stadium on its way, the 49ers hope the Bay Area will host its first Super Bowl since 1985, and they just might do it.

Earlier this month, NFL owners announced that Santa Clara is a finalist to host the Super Bowl in 2016 or 2017.

With any luck, the 49ers will become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

You can keep tabs on the Santa Clara stadium’s construction via three webcams on the official website.