Heading to the NFC Championship game on Sunday, I am reminded of my very first professional football game. It was probably in the 50s, and a preseason game between the Washington Redskins, with former UOP great, Eddie LeBaron, and the Los Angeles Rams, led by Norm van Brocklin, and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch.
And much like Sunday’s game, we will drive down to the LA basin from the Valley, though there are many more freeways and cars than the Fifties. And instead of the antiquated Los Angeles Coliseum, the former home of the Rams, this game will be held at the latest and greatest of sports venues, So Fi Stadium in Inglewood.
For those of us who do not know, So Fi resides on the former location of the Hollywood Park Racetrack, about 3 miles east of LAX. The stadium is home to both the Chargers and the Rams. The stadium will also host Super Bowl 56 in another few weeks, as well as opening and closing ceremonies for the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Some design background about So Fi:
SoFi Stadium was designed by HKS and consists of the stadium itself, a pedestrian plaza, and a performance venue. Above the stadium is an independently supported translucent canopy which covers the stadium proper, the adjacent pedestrian plaza, and the attached performance venue. The million-square-foot canopy is made up of 302 ETFE panels, 46 of which can be opened to provide ventilation, supported by a cable net. The canopy has 27,000 LED pucks embedded in, which can project images and video that can be seen from airplanes flying into the LAX airport. The stadium bowl has open sides and seats 70,240 spectators for most events, with the ability to expand by 30,000 additional seats for larger events. However, despite the roof, the open sides of the stadium still make it vulnerable to lightning delays, with the first such delay in an NFL game between the Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders on October 4, 2021. The attached music and theatre venue, known as the YouTube Theater, has a capacity of 6,000 seats. The stadium and performance center are separate facilities under one roof.
Another component of the stadium’s design is the Infinity Screen by Samsung, an ovular, double-sided 4K HDR video board, the first of its kind, that is suspended from the roof over the field. Formerly known as “the Oculus” before a name change, the structure weighs 2.2 million pounds (1,000 t) and displays 80 million pixels. The Infinity Screen also houses the stadium’s 260-speaker audio system, as well as 56 5G wireless antennas.
Several music concerts have been held here. Performers include: the Rolling Stones, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Kenny Chesney, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
So, the real question is how this experience will compare to some of my other big football experiences. The old LA Coliseum will always hold a certain charm since it was my first NFL game. Certainly, Super Bowl 47 in the Superdome in New Orleans will always be at the top. Lexi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is ok, as are the Jerry Dome in Dallas, and the Baltimore Ravens M & T Bank Stadium (in a driving rain no less).
Once the game starts, I don’t think the stadium really matters. Yes, the seats are comfortable, the food and beverage choices are numerous. I would love to see this year’s version of my Forty Niners play here again on Super Bowl Sunday in two weeks. As you know, my last Super Bowl (47) visit in New Orleans (2013) resulted in a close and terrible loss to the Ravens.
Many of you will argue that watching on television is better. I would not say better, just different. Yes, you get the replays, and the commentary. But with high tech stadiums, replays are commonplace. And I strongly dislike the commentary of the national announcers (like Joe Buck, Tony Romo, and Chris Collingsworthless). I much prefer the local guys, like Greg Papa and Tim Ryan.
We can only hope for a great game in an exciting new venue.
PS: My Niners lost, but the silver lining is: the Trey Lance era begins, and Super Bowl tickets are already at the $6,000 mark for the nosebleeds on the 5th level!!!