SANTA CLARA -- Levi's Stadium had its first test with a big 49ers crowd on Sunday and appeared to earn a solid passing grade -- but with one big incomplete mark.
While there were scattered reports that the heralded stadium cellphone app was buggy, concession lines were long and it was hard for some fans to find their parking spot, the traffic and train lines -- the biggest concern for most fans -- were mostly smooth before and after the game.
Here's the caveat: The awful 49ers performance on the field (losing 34-0 to the Denver Broncos), 80-degree heat and lack of excitement from a preseason game drove most of the 68,000 fans in attendance to the exits starting at halftime. With the crowds filing out in an even fashion over two hours, the postgame traffic -- typically the worst part of any NFL stadium experience -- was spread out, making the trip home a breeze for most fans.
That's in sharp contrast to the hour-plus waits fans endured to board trains and get out of parking lots two weeks prior, when all 49,000 left at once after a soccer match on Aug. 2 that served as a warm-up for Sunday's event.
"It's a test, but it's not the real thing until we have these fans trying to leave" at once, 49ers Chief Operating Officer Al Guido said after the game. But, he added, the overall game plan went much better than last time: "We learned a lot from the Earthquakes" game.
After another preseason game next Sunday, against the San Diego Chargers, the full postgame crush may not come until the regular season home opener on Sept. 14 against the Chicago Bears.
The saddest moment of the game came in the third quarter, when a 49ers fan suffered a cardiac emergency in section 221. Paramedics from the Santa Clara Fire Department administered CPR and rushed the man to O'Connor Hospital, but he was pronounced dead by the emergency room physicians. It was the third death at the stadium site, but the first since it had opened; two workers had died during construction.
"The 49ers organization is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of one of our fans earlier today," the team said in a statement. "We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences and prayers to his family and friends in this time of sadness."
The Valley Transportation Authority, which had big issues handling crowds on its light rail trains two weeks ago, saw its tweaks -- including the completion of a track project to store extra trains -- pay off. Most fans said their waits to board postgame trains lasted just 15 to 30 minutes compared to up to 90 minutes two weeks ago, although it remains to be seen how the VTA will handle the onslaught of fans all leaving at the end of a game.
Pregame traffic was also mostly smooth sailing. While some fans reported trouble spots getting through Lawrence Expressway into the Blue Lots -- a route slowed by a minor vehicle accident -- and other travelers were slowed for a while trying to find the right lot, about 92 percent of fans arrived before the 1 p.m. kickoff.
About three-fourths of the way through the first quarter, Jerome Xavier was sitting in his seat and said at that point "at Candlestick, we'd still be in traffic."
"There was no traffic," echoed Dave Devencenzi, a 49ers season ticket holder since 1969, who left Burlingame an hour and 15 minutes before the game and made it to his seat easily before kickoff. "Still can't believe it."
Lisa Stirling and her husband, Chris, said their hourlong drive from Lafayette was not bad, but they did not heed one key piece of advice from 49ers officials.
"We did not follow the directions on the ticket to parking," she said, and it was only because some friends showed them where to park that they found their spot as quickly as they did.
Even star Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who threw the first touchdown at the stadium, gave a thumb's-up.
"It was nicer than nice. I'd heard a lot about it," Manning said. "It was a beautiful setting. Great sight lines for the quarterback on the field. I was very impressed."
Others had a much harder time: "It took an hour to figure out how to park," said fan Joel Perry, who had an easy time getting to Santa Clara from Sacramento. "The lot was a mess figuring out where to go and which took cash."
And some fans weren't impressed by the vibe at the sterile new $1.3 billion stadium.
"Without knowing what to expect here, I just walked in and don't see music playing. I don't see fans entertaining each other. I don't see people talking to each other," said Jamie Cowden, a loyal fan whose family has had season tickets since 1947.
Technology and food, two other main components of the stadium, were disaster-free but not without problems. The stadium peaked at 20,000 devices connected to the stadium's Wi-Fi at once -- impressive for any structure -- but some fans said they couldn't get on or that the Internet crawled along. And while some food and beer lines on the outer concourses had barely any customers all game, inside the main concourse, some stands selling unique specialty items such as ice cream and barbecue attracted lines more than a dozen people long.
During the game, there were scattered reports of drunken people who were arrested and employees who gave poor directions, but no major miscues. Team officials said there was an unusually high number of calls for emergency services, likely because of the heat.
The team said it's already working on tweaks before next week's game, from relocating the condiment bars that caused bottlenecks in the middle of concourses to educating fans better about the hot side of the stadium behind the visitor's bench.
"For the things we need to get better at," Guido said, "I ask fans to be patient."
Staff writers Daniel Brown, Katie Nelson, Robert Salonga and Jon Wilner contributed to this report. Let us know how your experience at Sunday's game went: Contact Mike Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or send tweets to Twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.