On Saturday, the eve of the Dolphins game against the San Francisco 49ers, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee and senior vice president Nat Moore toured the burgeoning Santa Clara site. They spent two hours at the preview center and construction site and departed knowing that the competition is stiff.
“It’s impressive and formidable,” Dee said. “They have an amazing facility that is well-thought, reflects the high-technology nature of this region and will be a host to big events for the next 30 years on a recurring basis.
“You can’t walk away without thinking this is a challenge for us to compete against this kind of facility. How do we put our best foot forward? It’s definitely not easy.”
This stadium will have all the modern amenities. It will have two LED scoreboards. It will house the 49ers Hall of Fame, and 49ers team store, and the 49ers Bar and Grill Lounge. It will also house a state of the art radio and television broadcast facility.
But because this is Silicon Valley and tech is king, this stadium promises all the goodies Apple, Google and Facebook could deliver. The place will be a connectivity nerd’s paradise.
“We’re making sure that it’s a software-driven stadium as opposed to a hardware-driven stadium,” York said. “So you don’t want to spend all your big-ticket item dollars on a huge scoreboard that’s going to be obsolete in five or 10 years down the road.
“What we wanted to make sure we did was build out a technology stack that allowed our fans to use their tablets, their smart phones, those type of things that continue to get updated and upgraded every 12 to 18 months. We want to make sure you can plug right into our building as soon as you walk in the door — to have a ticketless, cashless building, to make sure you can watch all the replays and get inside the game better than at home.”
Suites have tablets mounted to the wall that allow fans to order drinks and food from one of the applications. The tablet also controls lighting and the multiple high-definition TVs in the suite.
The seats will be set on rails (not bolt-ins) to give the stadium capacity flexibility. It’s referred to as elastic capacity, meaning capacity can grow for events such as the Super Bowl. There will be clips on seats so fans can bring their tablets to the game and have the same connectivity they would have in a suite.
Sun Life Stadium, in its present form, cannot do this kind of thing. But the Dolphins are hoping to upgrade their facility through a public-private funding plan that would at least get the 25-year-old place in the game against buildings like Santa Clara.
The Dolphins’ proposal will be revealed in about a month. The last time the Dolphins tried such a measure it failed. This one will be different.
It will have a different approach to the canopy roof idea. It will close the 25-yard distance between the stands and the field. It will raise capacity closer to the field and lower it in the upper level. It will improve the lighting.
The upgrade price is not known, Last time it was $250 million. Like last time, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross could pay $150 million or more for the upgrades. And funding for the remainder of the project will not raise taxes for residents, Dee said.
Still, the fact the Marlins broke trust with the community recently has left many locals disliking the idea of public-private stadium ventures, and that could work against the Dolphins.
“We recognize the environment can be toxic because of other things that have taken place and the community has no appetite for anything that resembles what’s taken place in the last couple of years,” Dee said. “We have to be mindful of that and come forward with a plan that makes practical sense not only for Stephen Ross and the Dolphins but for the community.”
That’s what it’s going to take to overcome the opponent in Santa Clara.