SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It’s not easy to draw a parallel between the San Jose Earthquakes’ usual home and their temporary digs. But Shea Salinas gave it his best effort.
“The surface is pretty similar to Buck Shaw,” Salinas said. “And I think that’s the only similarity.”
The Quakes got a chance to test drive Levi’s Stadium on Friday, training at the soon-to-be home of the San Francisco 49ers in advance of their Saturday matchup against the Seattle Sounders (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN, stream on NBCSports.com, TSN2 in Canada). A crowd of roughly 45,000 is expected for the first competitive event at the $1.2 billion venue.
The reviews – perhaps not surprisingly, for a team that typically plays in a college arena where barely more than 10,000 constitutes a sellout – were uniformly positive.
“This is awesome,” Salinas said. “I know a lot of history is going to be made in this stadium. It’s cool to be the first part of that history. … You’re kind of in awe when you walk into this stadium, so it’ll be exciting tomorrow.”
Said Jason Hernandez: “There’s definitely a little added excitement to it, knowing that it’s the first game being played in this stadium and this is a stadium that’s going to be loved by a lot of people in this area for years to come. It’s a cool feeling.”
The Levi’s Stadium opening comes six days after the Quakes staged the final professional game at Candlestick Park – the Niners’ former home – with an exhibition against Atletico Madrid before 15,556 fans.
“Close one stadium down, open another – our marketing team has done a good job,” Salinas said.
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That double won’t be repeated, but Quakes president David Kaval told the San Jose Mercury News on Thursday that the Levi’s appearance kicks off a five-year deal to play one league match per year at the stadium. That’s in addition to also staging one MLS game near July 4 at Stanford Stadium, a tradition that dates to 2011.
So, will the Quakes carve their names into the plush lockers that – temporarily, at least – belong to them?
“I’m not going to put that on the record,” Hernandez told MLSsoccer.com. “But some of us might leave some articles behind, for sure.”