Interactive 49ers Museum Highlights History of One of NFL’s Best Teams

Sony at the center of 20,000-square-foot facility, which is inside home of Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium.

Photos & Slideshow
View the slideshow View the slideshow

The San Francisco 49ers, whose Levi’s Stadium hosts Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, boast a tradition as rich and as successful as just about any team in the National Football League, so it’s no surprise they wanted to celebrate it when they had the chance.

In the 49ers Museum presented by Sony, the team set aside about 20,000 square feet of artifacts, interactive exhibits and educational spaces in which fans of the team and those who embrace history on the gridiron will walk away with smiles on their faces, thanks to 2014 CI Integrator of the Year Electrosonic and Cortina Productions.

The sad news for those in Santa Clara, Calif., for the Big Game is the museum—which is housed inside Levi’s Stadium—has been taken over by NFL officials during Super Bowl festivities and isn’t open until the end of the month. But it’s definitely worth making a special trip to see.

The 49ers Museum opened in August 2014, in conjunction with the team’s first exhibition game in Levi’s Stadium. The job started late in 2012 and included a year of design discussions before everyone agreed on the best approach to mesmerize fans with technology and cool pieces of Niners history. Electrosonic was included in those design discussions and helped in figuring out the project’s technical budget.

“We were trying to execute what the vision was and do it quickly,” says Steve Calver, project manager at Electrosonic. “A lot of what we did was standard equipment. A lot of what gives it character is the architecture.” That includes 208 footballs hanging from the ceiling in honor of the number of touchdowns Hall of Famer Jerry Rice caught during his career.

“Getting involved early was great because it meant we got to lay out the structural plan,” says Calver. That meant knowing where to pull cables, where to install panels and other considerations that are often afterthoughts when clients are installing AV systems. “Things got a little crunched at the end, but that’s the same with every job.” Electrosonic was on site for about six months and had at least one dust-free day that altered their plans, says Calver.

Related: Super Bowl 50 to be Most Technologically Advanced Game in History

The idea for the 49ers Museum came to team officials in 2011 when the team was playing in New England against the Patriots. The Patriots opened the Hall at Patriot Place as a place to honor the team’s best players and moments and the building gave 49ers officials the inspiration to do something great for its team too.

“There were things that worked well in New England that worked well in San Francisco and other things that didn’t,” says Stephen Platenberg, principal and creative director at Cortina, who was part of the team at Patriot Place too, along with Electrosonic. “Both teams have their own unique stories and both have an abundance of riches to tell compelling stories.”

The main exhibit structure of the 49ers Museum features curved walls, artifacts that are displayed without cases and multimedia presentations with that memorabilia. The first thing fans see when they walk into the 49ers Museum is “You Are A Niner,” an exhibit that makes them look like they’re wearing the uniforms of 49ers players or cheerleaders.

That piece took “a lot of coordination and working together to get the angles and the effect right,” says Calver.

Two 84-inch Sony 4K displays at the right show trending social media topics related to the team and the museum itself, giving the space “an up-to-the-minute feel as you come to the space,” says Platenberg. It’s able to be quickly updated and is tied into the museum’s central management system, which Cortina custom-designed for the museum.

A team gallery features an interactive database of every player in 49ers history, ranging from Hall of Famers such as Joe Montana and Steve Young to players who were called up from the practice squad for a handful of games during the lean years.

Related: Hall at Patriot Place Celebrates Team’s Championship Tradition

A Sony SRX-T420 21,000-lumen 4K projector shows a 16-minute film on the history of the franchise in a theater featuring a slightly curved 40×20 screen. From the theater, fans head into the Hall of Fame gallery, where about 30 full resin statues stand in iconic poses from their days with the 49ers. Through a coordinated sound and light show and two interactive touchscreens, fans can hear the player talking and enjoy live calls from his career.

The team gallery takes fans through more than 120 original interviews on being a 49er using Sony F55 cameras and portrait 4K monitors. Installers blended Sony LCD laser light projectors in the gallery, one of the first times Electrosonic had used a laser projector.

“You get the feeling as you’re moving through the space that the players and coaches are moving you along,” says Platenberg, noting patrons can put their faces inside a 49ers helmet in the team gallery.

From there, the museum flows into an exact recreation of Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh’s office, with a 4K screen integrated into the wood paneling and 4K shows and stories from 49ers players and an integrated light show to tell the story of the late mentor.

The Heritage gallery tells the history of the team using exposed artifacts split into various eras, touchscreens to allow fans to experience the artifacts and projections above the artifact gallery. A motion sensor behind each exhibit serves as volume control and every 15 minutes, nine projectors highlight one of three great plays in the team’s history in a 90-second vignette.

Spirit of the Team uses an 84-inch 4K monitor to turn fans into 49ers cheerleaders, while In the Game brings them to a field using four 4K gesture-based interactive screens to combine cheerleading and touchdown poses using an overlay of 49ers uniforms. Be the Broadcaster uses a green screen to allow fans to “broadcast” from the sidelines. It’s part of the STEM educational area visited by more than 100,000 kids every year, says Platenberg. The groups get free tours of the museum and stadium. And use six interactive MultiTaction tables with a wall screen.

The walk through the museum wraps up with two edge-blended projectors behind the team’s five Vince Lombardi trophies, including interviews with key players and coaches from each of the championship squads.

“The Niners wanted to do something great and we were all responsible to design to that original budget,” says Platenberg. “We had the same team starting from the beginning and that created a unified vision.”