SANTA CLARA — Only a Colin Kaepernick deep ball away from the San Francisco 49ers’ practice field, Levi’s Stadium is taking shape in a hurry.
The constant noise around team headquarters is a combination of cranes, hammering and coaches’ whistles. San Francisco’s players got back to formal offseason work with organized team activities Tuesday while also celebrating the announcement that their new, state-of-the-art $1.2 billion stadium next door had landed the coveted 50th Super Bowl in 2016.
Right in the heart of technology-rich Silicon Valley, to boot.
“I think it will be pretty cool, big for the city of San Francisco,” safety Donte Whitner said. “It’s big for us personally because any time a team hosts the Super Bowl, you want to be the team that hosts it and actually plays in it. So, we have something to look forward to.”
The only other time the Bay Area hosted the NFL title game, the 49ers were in it. That was after the 1984 season, when Joe Montana led the Niners past the Miami Dolphins 38-16 at Stanford Stadium.
With the franchise on a roll, everybody hopes a sixth championship is coming after the Niners lost the last Super Bowl 34-31 to coach Jim Harbaugh’s big brother, John, and his Baltimore Ravens.
“We just got the biggest stage on its golden anniversary. Let’s show the world what we’ve got, Bay Area,” 49ers president Gideon Yu posted Tuesday on Twitter.
While Whitner is in the final season of his contract, he could be re-signed and a part of the first season at Levi’s Stadium in 2014. This year will be one to say farewell to iconic Candlestick Park, shared by the 49ers and San Francisco Giants before the baseball team built its waterfront ballpark and opened there in 2000.
“With this stadium being built, it’s exciting,” linebacker Aldon Smith said. “It’s exciting for all the fans, the area. We’re looking forward to it.”
On Tuesday, several members of the Levi’s Stadium construction crew worked high atop the stadium on the light fixtures as the 49ers practiced below on a breezy afternoon. The players’ parking lot is directly beneath the stadium, so the 49ers see significant changes even by the day.
“It’s kind of cool to see the progress that they’re making, how fast they’re actually getting it up,” Whitner said. “They’ve been working around the clock on this thing, and now you can actually see the structure of it, the glass windows. The excitement is building. We’re excited about this football season, but then it gives us something to look forward to going into the following football season. Being able to be out here every day and see them work, it gives us a lot more excitement.”
While there’s no doubt the players have Super Bowls on the mind, the next one is the primary focus after falling just short against the Ravens in New Orleans. That still stings.
“It’s not a big deal right now,” fullback Bruce Miller said. “It’s nice. It’s going to be exciting for the fans and the community, but right now we’re focused on this year and the next Super Bowl.”