Santa Clara, California. – After a tumultuous offseason that saw a change in starting quarterback and a star wideout refusing to participate in offseason workouts until he signed a contract extension — NFL football is finally returning to the Bay Area.
The big business that is the NFL just got bigger in one year. Its teams’ revenue grew by 12% collectively. Healthy participation in games is a good reason why.
By early Friday afternoon, fans were starting to trickle into Levi’s Stadium for the first preseason game between the 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.
“Let’s go Niners!” A group of fans shouted as they sat in traffic holding a tailgate as they waited for the stadium’s car parks to officially open.
“Football is back! Football is back! I can’t wait!” said Sean Young, a 49ers fan from South San Francisco. Added another fan Robert Cosio, “We’ve been waiting all year for this!
Long before the kickoff and long before the first down, the 49ers Faithful are in regular season form away. But they are also keeping both eyes on what will happen on the field.
“Man, this is more important than the regular games. We got to see who’s who. And what they’re able to do now,” said fan Jeff Martin, who drove in for the game from Modesto. Added fellow tailback Sandra Smith, “I’m happy with what we have. Our offense, our defense. We’re going to do it.”
Experts said all this activity is revitalizing a local economy struggling to shake off COVID and the seemingly endless parade of infections that keep coming.
“People are going out. They’re enjoying themselves, having a good time. But economically, they’re spending money,” said Christian Malesic, CEO and president of the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce.
Many area businesses report a corresponding increase in sales because when the Niners are playing in town, they bring in customers.
“Every 49ers game, we’re always busy,” said Kevin Egong of the Chicken Meets Rice restaurant not far from the stadium. “Although if there is no game, we have a lot of orders, if there is a game, there are 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 entertainment and other entertainment. So it helps all the businesses in the local area,” he said.
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El Rey Williams and his girlfriend Teesha, came to Santa Clara from Studio City and Las Vegas respectively. Both said they were enjoying the atmosphere as they sat at the sidewalk table wearing Green Bay Packers jerseys. When asked about the Packers’ recent woes in beating San Francisco, he said, “That’s OK. We’re all down right now. It just takes a punch.”
Apparently early in the pre-season, a hand has been thrown and tens of thousands of faithful are ready to answer the call as football is finally back.
“When you’re loyal, you take it from start to finish. And we’re here at the start,” said Sean Allen, a 49ers fan who drove into town from Oroville, CA.