SANTA CLARA — The crowd that comes to Levi’s Stadium on football game days has not been known for offering the 49ers a significant home-field advantage, but both Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo believe that will not be the case in the team’s home opener on Sunday.
Much has been made of the lightly populated sunny side of the stadium on Sundays in Santa Clara since the 49ers made the move from Candlestick Park. The subject of the relocation alone often raises the blood pressure of the venerable fans who spent time in those orange baseball stadium seats in South San Francisco.
No one would dare compare the game-day atmosphere of Levi’s with Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, or Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, which are known for being the loudest of the outdoor venues. At least not yet.
Shanahan understands why the fan base could be considered lackadaisical, but he believes it’s because of the product on the field. He has seen what a good game can do to work fans up into a lather.
“I don’t think we’ve given our fans a lot to be excited about in the two years I’ve been here at home,” Shanahan said. “Or the few years prior, but when we have, I think the stadium has been loud.”
After seeing a significant 49ers fan presence in both Tampa and Cincinnati, Garoppolo also has high expectations for the team’s first home game.
“I think that our home crowd is awesome,” Garoppolo said. “These last two games in Tampa and Cincinnati especially, it turned into a home game with all the red out there. It was fun. I expect a great atmosphere and hope the crowd is rocking.”
The 49er Faithful have traveled well in the first two weeks but so do Steelers fans. Shanahan recalled one game, in particular, facing Pittsburgh where their fans took away the home-field advantage.
“Pittsburgh always travels well wherever I’ve been,” Shanahan said. “When I was in Atlanta when we were on our way to the Super Bowl, we still had to use a silent cadence at home even when we were, I think, 11-4 at the time.”
Even with that past experience, Shanahan predicts a heavily weighted home fan presence facing the Steelers.
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“I’m expecting it to be a strong 49ers crowd,” Shanahan said. “I always revert back to, I think it was the Christmas Eve game versus Jacksonville. I mean, we were out of it and I thought our fans were as loud as any stadium I’ve been at. I felt it last year versus Oakland. I felt it versus Seattle last year.
“I think our fans come ready, and if we come ready, I think we’ll be very happy about our home-field advantage.”