Down­town San Jose the cen­ter of Col­lege Football Play­off fun

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - Sal Pizarro Columnist

When Randy Mus­terer de­cided to open his sec­ond Sushi Con­fi­den­tial lo­ca­tion in down­town San Jose, this week­end’s Col­lege Football Play­off Na­tional Cham­pi­onship was just the kind of event he was hop­ing to be part of.

“You can see the trans­for­ma­tion hap­pen­ing from the street clo­sures, sig­nage on the build­ings in down­town pro­mot­ing the event, and now start­ing to see some of the streets fill­ing up with fans sport­ing their col­lege team lo­gos,” Mus­terer said. “I don’t think ev­ery­one re­al­izes how big this is for down­town San Jose, and we are ex­cited to show all th­ese fans how much fun they can have in this great city over this week­end’s fes­tiv­i­ties.”

Sushi Con­fi­den­tial’s out­door pa­tio opens out onto San Pe­dro Street, which will be one of the ma­jor hubs of ac­tiv­ity down­town in the days lead­ing up to Mon­day’s game be­tween Alabama and Clem­son at Levi’s Sta­dium. The street — closed to ve­hi­cle traf­fic — has been cov­ered with turf painted to look like a football field, and there will be football-themed games and

a Dos Equis beer gar­den there Fri­day through Mon­day.

If that setup sounds fa­mil­iar, that’s be­cause a sim­i­lar thing was done three years ago dur­ing Su­per Bowl 50, an­other high­pro­file sports event played at Levi’s Sta­dium. The big dif­fer­ence, though, is that the ac­tion won’t be lim­ited to San Pe­dro Street this time around. The NFL in­sisted most of the Su­per Bowl brouhaha take place in San Fran­cisco, but the Col­lege Football Play­off or­ga­niz­ers have marked down­town San Jose as the 50-yard-line for cel­e­bra­tions.

Pa­tri­cia Ern­strom, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Bay Area Host Com­mit­tee, told a group of down­town mer­chants at a meet­ing last month that this was San Jose’s first real op­por­tu­nity to be part of not just a huge sport­ing event — which it has many times be­fore — but a real “na­tional hap­pen­ing.”

That means the city is pre­par­ing for a po­ten­tial in­flux of tens of thou- sands of vis­i­tors tak­ing part in ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the “Cham­pi­onship Cam­pus” in down­town San Jose. On top of the San Pe­dro Square ac­ti­va­tion, “The Quad” at Plaza de Ce­sar Chavez will fea­ture ESPN broad­casts, mu­sic and other fan ac­tiv­i­ties; the San Jose McEn­ery Con­ven­tion Cen­ter will host Play­off Fan Cen­tral, a three- day ex­pe­ri­ence with pep ral­lies and au­to­graph sign­ings; and Dis­cov­ery Meadow next to the Chil­dren’s Dis­cov­ery Mu­seum will be the venue for AT&T Play­off Playlist Live’s three nights of free con­certs.

Add to that the Taste of the Cham­pi­onship, a $150-a-ticket tast­ing event fea­tur­ing 20 Bay Area chefs at the Tech Mu­seum of In­no­va­tion, and the Ex­tra Yard for Teach­ers 5K run on Sun­day morn­ing. Evan SAP Cen­ter is in the mix, host­ing the big Me­dia Day event on Satur­day morn­ing. And fol­low­ing that, our own col­lege football expert Jon Wilner and Ex­ec­u­tive Sports Edi­tor Bud Gera­cie will team up on a live pod­cast event at San Pe­dro Square Mar­ket from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Some down­town ven- ues are jump­ing on board, too. The Kristi Ya­m­aguchi Down­town Ice skat­ing rink has been re­dubbed “Cham­pi­onship Ice” and will be open all week­end, weather per­mit­ting. The Chil­dren’s Dis­cov­ery Mu­seum — which is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fri­day through Sun­day — is of­fer­ing vis­i­tors a free ticket to Play­off Fan Cen­tral and will have the 49ers EDU team — its STEAM ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram — around Satur­day with ac­tiv­i­ties around the evo­lu­tion of football uni­forms and how foot­balls fly. And Sushi Con­fi­den­tial will open at 11:30 a.m. Satur­day and Sun­day with bands and DJs play­ing all week­end and Mon­day’s game show­ing on a huge LED wall on the pa­tio.

Of course, if you’ve still got any energy left come Mon­day evening, you can prob­a­bly still go to the game, which as of Thurs­day had tick­ets avail­able on sec­ondary mar­kets for less than $200 each.

Check out the full ros­ter of events and any up­dates at ba­yarea2019.com.

NHAT V. MEYER STAFF AR­CHIVES

A view of down­town San Jose, look­ing south with St. James Park at bot­tom in 2018.

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