Efficient controls, communication and collaboration play a role in Levi’s Stadium’s operations and during Super Bowl 50.
By Eric Slack
For most people, the Super Bowl is simply an annual event, a reason to gather around the television and celebrate the crowning of a new NFL champion. They take for granted the massive amount of preparation that is required to pull off such a huge undertaking. For the San Francisco 49ers and Levi’s Stadium, however, making sure Super Bowl 50 went off without a hitch took years of work and collaboration.
Located in Santa Clara, Calif., Levi’s Stadium has been the home of the San Francisco 49ers of since 2014. For a facility like Levi’s Stadium, many different variables impact the supply chain on a day-to-day basis, let alone for an event such as the Super Bowl. These include organization, communication, scheduling and space allocation, as well as just-in-time inventory and proper utilization of temporary and longer-term storage facilities within the facility.
“Although large-scale event operations tend to get the most attention, there are a number of other ancillary special events hosted at Levi’s Stadium, such as meetings, private parties and holiday events, which require special attention and coordination,” says Jim Mercurio, vice president, stadium operations and general manager. “The ancillary special events are a large part of the success with special events and a huge portion of overall building use. Managing the building’s schedule as well as its preventative maintenance is also important to ensure minimal disruptions in day-to-day operations. An easy way to manage the schedule effectively is to pay attention to your space availability in regards to deliveries.”
When product is being delivered or removed, it is important that factors such as the timeline between events are taken into consideration. It is also critical to note how much traffic the loading dock area is able to accommodate in order to avoid creating downtime or delays for drivers, forklifts or logistical employees, and to account for food and beverage products, especially perishable items.
With employees, the supply chain impacts operational decisions when it comes to staff schedules, including parking, shuttle pick-up and drop-offs, and job assignments. It is a coordinated effort where every employee has a cue and needs to be in position before the fans show up. Everything is scheduled, planned, executed, tweaked and reset constantly for each event.
“Planning is crucial to ensuring an uninterrupted supply chain,” Mercurio says. “It needs to begin early with clear communication as well as organized contingency plans. Levi’s Stadium uses scheduling software that assists in event coordination. The software allows for planning and preventative maintenance events to be scheduled as far as a year in advance while avoiding schedule conflicts.”
The diversity and frequency of events hosted at Levi’s Stadium can impact the supply chain functions in a lot of ways. Concerts, soccer matches and corporate events all require different provisions than football games do, which means its supply chain must adapt quickly.
“Event scheduling can have a significant impact on supply chain functions,” Mercurio says. “We rely on one main road to access the docks, so coordinating in and around this area can make or break an event. There have been instances where the 49ers play at home on Sunday in front of 70,000 people with Levi’s Stadium then hosting a concert for 50,000 people on the following Wednesday. With advanced planning and the coordination of proper requirements, the transition from a sports venue to an outdoor music hall should be relatively smooth.”
The supply chain also plays a key role in Levi’s Stadium’s efforts to operate in a sustainable fashion. Local sourcing allows product orders to be fulfilled quicker, while also cutting down on emissions from delivery trucks. The strategy also employs local workers and reduces storage costs.
“It’s very beneficial, which is why we use local tool companies, food and beverage sources, paper product services, contractors and employees, among others,” Mercurio says. “Using local sourcing as part of the operational plan is a key step to becoming a multifaceted success both operationally and fiscally. It is also beneficial as a grass roots initiative to encourage citizens to support the stadium as part of the neighborhood and community.”
Additionally, Levi’s Stadium is pursuing LEED for Existing Buildings Operations status. Efforts to help the stadium achieve this include recycled water piping supply, solid waste management programs for compostable products, recycling, and sustainable purchasing. Other activities are indoor environmental air quality programs that deliver filtered fresh air within the stadium with an energy-managed system, green cleaning products throughout the stadium, controllability of lighting systems and motion sensors, and transportation options. Best practices are pursued for all of these activities.
“While most of the necessary LEED documentation has already been submitted, the process leading up to submission involved most, if not all, of the supply chain elements,” Mercurio says. “Stadium partners and selected vendors were required to participate in the process because certification looks at all aspects of the operations.”
Adding an event like Super Bowl 50 to the calendar brings an additional level of excitement and planning to the table. Preparation started the day Levi’s Stadium was selected to host the Super Bowl more than two years ago. Travel to Super Bowl XLVIII and Super Bowl XLIX helped the organization gain a working knowledge of typical game day operations.
“In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, we mainly dealt with the NFL and their subcontractors who were onsite,” Mercurio says. “We helped manage their individual needs such as rooms for conferences, party planners, various deliveries, security coordination with local, state and federal agencies, as well as logistics for each of the aforementioned disciplines. The week of the Super Bowl is essentially a massive event made up of several smaller events and each one is different than the last.”
The number of multi-meetings occurring simultaneously proved challenging because Mercurio’s team was asked to take part in all of them. Levi’s Stadium assigned project managers and staff to ensure there was representation at every meeting, which was difficult at times.
“The preparation, redundancy checks, coordination, minor details, mega details, rehearsals, tests, roll calls, assignments to key personnel, proper delegation – all while trusting my team to direct both internal and external stakeholders – proved to be the greatest win for me,” Mercurio says. “The entire staff performed extremely well, even beyond my wildest and sometime unrealistic expectations.”
The NFL oversees most elements of the Super Bowl, so Levi’s Stadium’s primary responsibility was to ensure that the stadium was prepared for an event of that scope. Communication is the key element in planning and executing for an event of that size. Daily updates as well as internal discussions and meetings with external parties allowed for everyone to be on the same page at all times.
“Collaboration and communication were two major keys,” Mercurio says. “Most importantly, just let your employees do their jobs. Trust your employees, but verify.”
Ultimately, the Super Bowl was another stadium event that tested all of Levi’s Stadium’s operational plans and procedures. Looking back at the event, it is clear that its existing plans are effective, adaptable and scalable.
“We stressed and emphasized to employees the importance of never becoming complacent,” says. “We encouraged our teams to frequently look for ways to improve. As well as things seemed to go during the Super Bowl, we can always improve so that the next time we host an event of that size, we are even better.”