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Grant Cohn: A specialness is taking shape at 49ers stadium in Santa Clara

  • Model for new stadium in Santa Clara for inspection gives a glimpse of the future. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

SANTA CLARA – You caravan into the Levi's Stadium construction site, weave around cones and portable trailers, park your car and put on a hardhat and a uniform, like a player.

You see the stadium to the east. When you look at it, part of what you do is use your imagination. You imagine what it will look like when it's done. Right now, it's dirt and concrete and no color. When you use your imagination, the stadium lights up like the Emerald City in “The Wizard of Oz.”

A creek separates the stadium and the main parking lot to the west, the Great America parking lot, where you are. This will be the main parking lot on 49ers' game day.

There's a bridge over the creek. You walk over the bridge, and the tour guide tells you two more bridges will be built. It feels like you're walking into a moated castle. On game days, you can imagine fans storming that castle.

Now the stadium is right in front of you and you're facing the Suite Tower. It's nine stories high. It does not have the feeling of Santa Clara or Silicon Valley. It does not feel like an extension of Great America, either. It looks like a stylish new apartment house of condos south of Market. San Francisco meets Santa Clara in that building. At least San Francisco is good for something.

The 49ers didn't build their stadium in San Francisco, so they brought San Francisco to them. The new high rise is more San Francisco than Candlestick ever was.

The tour guide leads you into a construction elevator and takes you up to the first level of the stadium. He leads you to the northwest corner, which is hollowed out like a birthday cake missing a piece. Actually, Levi's stadium is missing two pieces, one in the southwest corner, too. This opens up the stadium, the tour guide says. Candlestick was closed. But Levi's Stadium can fill in the missing pieces with an extra 10,000 seats when it hosts the Super Bowl in 2016 and needs to accommodate 75,000 fans.

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