In the end, Levi’s Stadium seemed to rise out of the ground almost overnight. In just two years, workers constructed the first NFL stadium in California in nearly 50 years, replete with the bells and whistles the world expects from Silicon Valley. From the 27,000-square-foot “Green Roof” atop its suite tower to the 400 miles of digital cable buried in its guts, Levi’s wows with aesthetics and digital access. Indeed, there are 1,200 Wi-Fi access points, allowing fans to—among other things—order food and find the restroom with the shortest lines. (The sprawling concourses also contain 250 more restroom facilities than their cramped predecessors.)
Despite the remarkable speed of construction, the ascent of Levi’s Stadium is only the last leg of a quest that goes back decades: a flat-out sprint at the end of a halting marathon. It’s a fact that few people outside of the team can appreciate. But one of them who does is Jonathan Harvey ’91, vice president of construction for Devcon, the Milpitas-based contractor who built the stadium in partnership with New York–based Turner.
Harvey first started work on building a new Niners home 17 years ago, back when the team still imagined staying at Candlestick Point. That notion sputtered after Niners ownership changed, but Devcon’s existing relationship with the team endured, leading Harvey to oversee upgrades to both Candlestick and the training facilities in Santa Clara. It was never long, however, before talk returned to the big project.
Those plans hit warp speed in 2011 as the move to Santa Clara became a certainty. Suddenly Harvey and his counterpart at Turner were racing to pull off the construction equivalent of a two-minute drill: Build the country’s most advanced football stadium, and do it in time for the 2014 season. For the past three years, Turner’s home away from home has been a trailer near Gate F on the stadium’s south side.
“It’s been all-consuming,” he says.
Meeting the deadline required a mix of grit, guile, and good luck. The lack of rain during the past year may be bad for most things, but clear weather certainly helped avoid construction delays. Cranes, crews, and pile drivers worked around the clock. To gain logistical advantages, the company worked with the city of Santa Clara to streamline and phase permitting. Instead of building the stadium like the tiers of a wedding cake, the typical way, they broke it into separate quadrants, each with its own crew essentially tackling a separate building.
The resulting icon, Harvey says, is a testament to the vision of the York family and Niners officials, filled with touches of both Silicon Valley’s present—including enough solar panels to offset the power consumed during home games over the course of the year—and its past. Suites feature reclaimed wood from the old air hangar at Moffett Field. The stadium’s open spaces give sweeping views of the surrounding area.
It’s fair to say that the stadium is a work of Bronco ingenuity. Nearly a dozen SCU grads worked on the Devcon/Turner joint venture, ranging from recently graduated engineers, like Laura Skinner ’10, up to Devcon’s president, Gary Filizetti ’67, MBA ’69, a Santa Clara native and lifelong football fan. Harvey himself grew up a Steelers fan in Pennsylvania before moving to California in elementary school, just in time to have his allegiances won by Joe Montana’s Niners. You don’t have to support a team, of course, to build its new home, but certainly Harvey wouldn’t mind if the hard work turns into the stage for the Niners’ next championship. In 2016, Super Bowl L comes to Santa Clara—and all eyes will be on the house Devcon built.