First impressions of stadiums can be misleading. For instance, when Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch at Candlestick Park in 1960, he famously proclaimed, "This will be one of the most beautiful baseball parks of all time."
A year later, Stu Miller practically got blown off the mound at the All-Star Game. From then on the true nature of the 'Stick became clear.
So fans focusing on the traffic and transit debacles at last weekend's debut of Levi's Stadium should hold off on final judgment. In this case, we suspect the shift in views of the 49ers' new home will be diametrically the opposite of Candlestick's downhill slide. All the irksome-to-infuriating problems last weekend are fixable. Levi's has the bones of a great stadium -- and it's already fulfilling its promise of delivering world-class entertainment to this region, long before the pinnacle, the NFL's 50th Super Bowl, rocks the Bay Area in 2016.
Thursday's announcement that the National Hockey League will bring one of its popular outdoor matchups to the Bay Area on Feb. 21 is just the latest in a string of blockbuster events planned for the 68,000-seat stadium. The illustration of an outdoor ice rink in the middle of the green football field looked a little weird, but when the Sharks square off with their rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, it's likely to break the single-game attendance record for hockey in California.
Better still, one of the reasons the NHL decided to play the Bay Area game reportedly was the superior sightlines and configuration of the field compared to other stadiums in the region. HTNB, designers of the picturesque Levi's Stadium, have to be thrilled. Anytime your work is compared favorably with San Francisco's gorgeous AT&T Park, you know you did something right.
The hockey game is just the latest coup. Two of the most entertaining offensive soccer teams in the world, Mexico and Chile, will square off Sept. 6 in the first international soccer match to be held in the stadium. The University of Oregon Ducks, who figure to be one of the top 10 college football teams in the country this year, will play Cal there on Oct. 24, followed by the Pac-12 championship football game Dec. 5.
And who can forget WrestleMania 31? It hits town March 29.
World-class regions have world-class facilities to showcase world-class events, whether sports, music, art or theater -- or wherever WrestleMania fits in. Levi's Stadium makes the cut. 49ers owner Jed York and regional transit officials know they've got work to do to bring the stadium experience up to expectations, but we're confident they're up to it.
And in a few years, last week's bad experiences will be as remote in memory as Richard Nixon's gushing praise of, ahem, beautiful Candlestick Park.