After more than 40 years, five Super Bowl titles, and a plethora of Hall of Fame careers, the San Francisco 49ers will play their final regular season game in Candlestick Park on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons.
The city and the team couldn’t ask for a better matchup to shutter the stadium’s doors with a victory than if it was a college homecoming game. The Falcons are 4-10 on the season, and the defending NFC champion 49ers are expected to make the playoffs while still challenging for the NFC West crown.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco could host a playoff game if they can rip they division lead from rival Seattle with two games left in the regular season. But team officials are planning events as if this will be the final time fans step foot in Candlestick.
“We’re going to try to give her a good send-off. I don’t want to spoil any of that for the fans that might be listening,” 49ers Vice President of Stadium Operations and Security Jim Mercurio said to CBS San Francisco. “We’re planning to do some pretty special things, some great tributes.”
Next year the 49ers will move into brand new Levi’s Stadium, some 45 miles to the south in Santa Clara, Calif., and according to the New York Times technology innovator and Silicon Valley mainstay Intel will pack the venue with enhanced products from security and sensors to computers. The new estimated $1.2 billion stadium’s capacity will also be expandable to 75,000, and will incorporate a more wide open style and nearly double the square footage of Candlestick.
Candlestick first opened in 1960 as the home field for Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, and the two clubs shared the stadium from 1971 to 2000. According to the 49ers official team site, since it opened more than 17.5 million NFL fans have attended games and seven movies had been filmed in the 69,900 capacity stadium.
Led by groundbreaking coach and executive Bill Walsh, San Francisco dominated the NFL for nearly 20 years in Candlestick, winning five Super Bowls from 1981 to 1994 with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, and the NFL’s all-time leading receiver in Jerry Rice.
Montana sparked the first four championships, kick started by “The Catch” in the 1982 NFC championship game against the Dallas Cowboys. Receiver Dwight Clark snagged Montana’s end zone heave that sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance and victory, ending Dallas’s mighty reign in the NFC and eventually anointing San Francisco as the team of the decade.
While recognizing his place in 49ers lore, Clark didn’t hold back his true feelings about Candlestick to the Los Angeles Times.
"It was a dump, but it was our dump," Clark said. "We had a lot of history there and a lot of success. It's sad to see it go, but that's progress."
Rice, considered among the best football players in NFL history, spent the first 16 years of his 21 year career with the 49ers, pulling down 1,281 receptions for 19,247 yards and 176 touchdowns. Rice would also surpass legendary Jim Brown for most career touchdowns in 1994, and end his career with 208.
After three straight losses in the NFC title game to Dallas and the New York Giants, Rice and Young would guide San Francisco to the 1994 championship game with a 38-28 victory over the Cowboys. Young went on to torch the San Diego Chargers for a record six touchdown passes in Super Bowl XXIX.
Though there’s no specific date set, Candlestick’s demolition is reportedly scheduled for either late 2014 or early 2015.