SANTA CLARA, Calif. - After a tumultuous off-season that saw a switch at starting quarterback and a star wide-receiver who refused to participate in off-season drills until he signed a contract extension – NFL football is finally back in the Bay Area.
The big business that is the NFL got bigger over the course of a year. Its teams' revenue jumped 12% collectively. Healthy attendance at games is a good reason why.
Early Friday afternoon, fans had begun making their way to Levi’s Stadium for the first pre-season game between the 49ers and Green Bay Packers.
"Let’s Go Niners!" shouted a group of fans, as they sat in traffic holding a pre-tailgate-tailgate, while waiting for the stadium’s parking lots to officially open.
"Football’s back! Football’s back! Can’t wait!," said Sean Young, a 49ers fan from South San Francisco. Added fellow fan Robert Cosio, "We’ve been waiting all year for this!
Long before the opening kick and long before the first hit, 49ers Faithful are in regular season form outside. But, they’re also keeping both eyes on what will happen on the field.
"Man, this is more important than the regular games. We gotta see who’s who. And what they’re capable of doing right now," said fan Jeff Martin, who drove in for the game from Modesto. Added fellow tailgater Sandra Smith, "I’m happy with what we’ve got. Our offense, our defense. We’re gonna do this."
Experts said all this activity is reinvigorating a local economy struggling to shake off COVID, and the seemingly endless parade of contagions that keep coming.
"People are going out. They’re enjoying themselves, they’re having a good time. But economically, they’re spending money," said Christian Malesic, CEO & president of the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce.
Many area businesses report a corresponding bump in sales, because when the Niners are playing in town, they bring out customers..
"Every single game with the 49ers, we’re always busy," said Kevin Egong of "Chicken Meets Rice" restaurant not far from the stadium. "Even though if there’s no game we have a lot of orders, if there is a game, there’s bigger orders."
That economic charity extends to area hotels, according to Malesic.
"Some people are coming from out of town. So they’re enjoying our amusements and other entertainment. So helps all of the businesses in the local area," he said.
El Rey Williams, and his girlfriend Teesha, came to Santa Clara from Studio City and Las Vegas respectively. Both said they were enjoying the ambience, as they sat at sidewalk table wearing Green Bay Packers jerseys. When asked about the Packers recent problems beating San Francisco he said, "That’s alright. We’re all at zero right now. It only takes one punch."
Apparently at the start of the pre-season, a gauntlet has been thrown, and tens of thousands of Faithful are ready to answer the call, as football is finally back.
"When you’re faithful, you get it from beginning to end. And we here at the start of it," said Sean Allen, a 49ers fan who drove to town from Oroville, CA.