A new dawn of time in San Francisco for the loyal red and gold is underway—what many 49er fans call the Niner Faithful. Monday’s 34-24 victory against the Atlanta Falcons marked the 36th Monday Night Football game that Candlestick Park has hosted since opening in 1971, the most of any stadium in NFL history. This was the official regular season home finale game for the 49ers at the historic stadium.
However, the possibility of hosting a playoff game this season is still in reach for the Niners, who must win at Arizona while the Seahawks must lose in their final home regular season matchup against the St. Louis Rams in order for this to happen, and I think the fans would love to host a playoff game in the final year before the infamous park gets taken down—forever.
It feels as though a piece of me—as a born and bred 49ers fan who’s attended several games —not just history has been taken away instantly. The memories are what will live forever and never be forgotten, but the times before the games, driving to the park, tailgating, walking around in between quarters, the fans, the game itself, all of it is what made us really appreciate coming to the Stick and made it unforgettable.
With over 53 years of sports history behind the Stick—which originally was built as the home of the San Francisco Giants back in 1960 and then welcomed the 49ers in 1971, who would call this place their own until the 2013-14 season.
What many remember as their glory years in the 1980s and 90s that resulted in five Super Bowl rings made the 49ers stand out, starting with “The Catch” made by Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship game that triggered the beginning of a 14-year tenure that made the 49ers a football and sports dynasty in the eyes of America’s sport.
Being only 23 years old, I have been observing and watching the 49ers since I can recall being able to watch anything on television. Growing up with older siblings, they taught me the ways of being a true 49er faithful early on and I recall glimpses of their 1994-95 Super Bowl run as a kid and going bananas around the house.
My first experience at the Stick was as a fan back in 2005, in what fans and co. called the “Reggie Bush Bowl,” which was played against the Houston Texans as many predicted the loser to come out with the number one pick. The 49ers came out on top, 20-17 in an overtime win, proving that their home field advantage helped.
In their first full season in the pros after being drafted in the first round, Adrian Peterson v. Patrick Willis became the headline in the 2007 matchup against the visiting Minnesota Vikings, and I was lucky enough to have been present as a spectator. While the 49ers fell to the Vikings in another rough losing year, the defense along with the loud crowd at Candlestick managed to hold All-Day (Peterson), to only three yards on 14 carries, with Willis leading the way with eight tackles.
But just as I remember specific players and specific games I will also remember the characteristics of the park itself.
The stadium is situated at Candlestick Point on the western shore of the San Francisco Bay. Due to its location next to the bay, strong winds often swirl down into the stadium, creating unusual playing conditions.
It wasn’t always perfect or happy-go-lucky at the Stick with that bay area breeze and gust making it difficult for the players, quarterbacks and especially the kickers. Major traffic jams became clearly evident over the years as well, with fans urging their way into the park and causing chaos at times, but it was for the love of the game—and the Niners.
On Oct. 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck San Francisco just minutes before Game 3 of the World Series between the Giants and the Oakland Athletics, with nobody within the stadium being injured, however the stadium suffered minor structural damage.
Later on Al Michaels and Tim McCarver, who called the World Series game, credited the stadium's design for saving thousands of lives, proving once more the unique type of stadium that was built.
The park will live on for years to come as thousands, possibly millions of people, will be speaking out about the history, love and tradition at The Stick.
With their new park, Levi’s Stadium, breaking ground last year and nearly finished, the 49ers have a new place to call home—located next to Great America in Santa Clara—but it will be hard to say goodbye to all those memorable times that can never be taken away or forgotten.
I attended training camp earlier in the preseason to cover it for work and seeing construction underway with their facilities located right next to each other made me see change for the 49ers doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Maybe it is time for a new home.