SANTA CLARA -- This just in: Levi's Stadium was still not completely perfect Sunday.
But it performed a whole lot better than the home team.
In their first exhibition game at the much-touted building that still has that distinctive new-stadium smell, the 49ers wound up stinking up the joint. They lost to the Denver Broncos 34-0.
Little wonder that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, when asked for his opinion about the stadium, called it "nicer than nice." Of course, he didn't have to wait in a long line on a hot day for a $10.25 beer.
Yet from most accounts, the Levi's experience for fans was much better this time around than it was for the stadium's "soft opening" with an Earthquakes' soccer game two weeks ago.
There have also been numerous other "grand opening" events at Levi's. The ribbon cutting! The formal gala! The museum opening! The official unzipping of the Levi's club on the concourse! And so forth. I believe there was even a ceremonial toilet-tissue installation party for the third-deck men's restrooms.
But it's paramount to remember that Levi's was designed as, you know, a football stadium. And so it was sweet to finally see a football game played there -- even if the game turned out to be a bad one.
The day only confirmed that, strictly as a place to view the nation's favorite spectator sport, Levi's works magnificently. The sightlines are great. The scoreboards are high-definition grabbers. Basically, the whole experience is as non-Candlesticky as you can get.
There's something else we learned Sunday, too, courtesy of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"We'll have a lot more noise here than at Candlestick, from the way it sounded like today," Kaepernick reported based on the decibels he heard during his brief playing time in the first quarter.
Unfortunately, all that noise and all four Niners quarterbacks who played in the game combined to score a grand total of zero points.
(New cheer: "Who's scoring the first 49ers touchdown at Levi's Stadium? Noooooooo-body!") Is it possible the players were thrown off kilter by the hoo-ha over the stadium opening and the strangeness of playing in a brand new edifice that was so darned ... nicer than nice?
Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers' head coach, waved away the blame-the-stadium theory.
"No, I thought that was good," Harbaugh said. "The new stadium ... that phase went well."
Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin agreed.
"I don't think that had anything to do with it," he said. "We just need to do better, make plays."
In other words, they need to improve as much as the stadium operations people seemed to do in the last two weeks. Compared with the Earthquakes' traffic fiasco, vehicles moved more smoothly into most of the parking lots Sunday with one or two exceptions -- specifically, the "Blue Lot" that required access from Lawrence Expressway.
Also, spectators showed up more prepared for the security lines. Jim Mercurio, the 49ers' vice president of stadium operations, said that 60,000 of the 68,500 ticketholders were inside by 1 p.m., eight minutes before kickoff.
"I'm extremely pleased with where we are," Mercurio said. "The part I don't know about is, what happens on the exit."
As halftime approached, Mercurio was patrolling the main concourse. He was making mental notes about the scene and any glitches that needed to be fixed. Mercurio had stayed up all night Saturday triple-checking details, as had several members of his staff.
Around him, there were definitely issues to be addressed. At the 300 level, some concession-stand food wasn't ready when fans first entered. At another stand, there was no chili for chili dogs. Lines for beer and frankfurters at the stadium's south end were far shorter than those at the north end, for undetermined reasons. Some people didn't realize there was a secondary pedestrian concourse on the stadium's outer rim where foot traffic moved more smoothly.
"People will figure it out with each game," Mercurio said, and he's probably right.
Yet unfortunately, we must report, there were symptoms at Levi's of the dreaded "AT&T Park Effect," epitomized by fans who are more interested in being at the game and hanging around the bar and club areas while talking about their very cool lives than actually watching the game itself. Fans also lined up to play interactive games beneath the seats, ignoring the action on the field behind them.
Perhaps that's just the way of professional sports in the year 2014. Or perhaps folks were just bored after Kaepernick left the game after two offensive series and headed en masse to the concession stands and bars. But the main concourse, far wider than Candlestick's, was packed to the gills in the second quarter through halftime with long and slow food lines.
The vaunted high-tech fan toys weren't helping much, either. Dan Evans of Pleasanton wrestled mightily with the phone app that was supposed to make ordering food a breeze by arranging for "express pickup" and no long lines -- but was met with frustration.
First, the app wouldn't accept Evans' credit card. Then it allowed him to order a chicken sandwich, except that the concession stand he chose for pickup was actually out of chicken sandwiches.
"Yeah, I'll still try it again," Evans said, after he'd picked up his food. "I'd still like to beat the lines. Who wouldn't? I just think it's trial and error right now. They'll work it out."
The 49ers need to do the same. They've got until September, just like the stadium.
Read Mark Purdy's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/purdy.