The very real possibility of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas seemingly gains steam with each day.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wholeheartedly endorsed the idea this week, just days after mayor Carolyn Goodman virtually guaranteed the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, barring mismanagement.
Management entails an actionable plan for a new football stadium. The city’s only existing venue, Sam Boyd Stadium, sits well off The Strip in the unincorporated suburb of Whitney.
Sam Boyd seats between 35,000 and 40,000, depending on event — fine for the defunct XFL Bandits, but well short of the needs of an NFL franchise.
The stadium comes well before the team, and it’s the heart of a movement that could dramatically change sports in the West.
A proposed domed stadium a stone’s throw from The Strip has gained the most headway. This venue would serve as home to the Silver & Black, but presumably attract other major sporting events like a Vegas bachelor party attracts bros.
From a college sports perspective, the Raiders moving to Las Vegas likely speeds the ongoing debate centered on the NCAA allowing postseason events in Sin City.
In December 2015, NCAA president Mark Emmert described a “robust conversation” internally about opening up hosting duties to Las Vegas. The city’s already became an epicenter for basketball, with the Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast and Western Athletic Conferences all holding their league tournaments there.
A dome is a key part of the equation. Should the NCAA lift its ban on championship events in areas with legalized sports gambling — ergo, Nevada — it shouldn’t take long for the Final Four to set up shop in the desert.
Likewise, the College Football Playoff wouldn’t be far behind.
In many ways, the Las Vegas home for football fulfills everything college sports wants from its title events: easily accessible from anywhere in the country, plenty of hotels and restaurants, and the stadium’s proposed location is near both the airport and primary hub of activity.
And that location also happens to sit bordering the UNLV campus.
NFL franchises’ impact on the local college football scene has been a topic of conversation here at CFB Huddle previously, and often negatively.
Miami’s decade-plus dormancy as a national powerhouse coincides directly with the program’s move from the Orange Bowl into the Dolphins’ stadium. I’ve posited San Diego State could benefit from the Chargers leaving town. I also took aim at the Raiders organization itself.
In its repeated flirtations with other cities, I noted the Raiders would have a damaging impact on the burgeoning program at UTSA. I stand by these assessments — though I see potential for San Diego State sharing a new venue with the Chargers, should that come to fruition.
My logic for San Diego State and a new Chargers stadium mirrors the potential benefit I see for UNLV football in the Raiders moving to Las Vegas.
While a fledgling program like UTSA has organically built a fan base, capitalizing on the city of San Antonio’s lack of but demand for football, UNLV football has languished for years.
Just last weekend, I spoke with a neighbor and UNLV alum. I told him his alma mater had the pieces to be significantly better in 2016. His reply: “It couldn’t get much worse.”
General malaise among the UNLV fan base isn’t tough to spot. Average attendance for Rebel home games lingers below 20,000 every year in the last half-decade.
The average figure jumped by nearly 5,000 from 2014 to 2015, however, showing a glimmer of hope directly reflective of the program’s general outlook. Hiring Tony Sanchez as head coach injected some new life, and fans came.
A new stadium gives UNLV football hope in the form of a top-tier facility it can pitch to recruits.
And while a brand new venue with thousands of empty seats accomplishes little, the proposed stadium’s location virtually guarantees improved attendance.
Sam Boyd Stadium is about eight miles from the UNLV campus. Your average undergraduate won’t travel that distance for anything, let alone a struggling football team.
A venue right on the edge of campus promises more student turnaround, and its proximity to The Strip could attract vacationers in much the way a Jabbawockeez show pulls in impromptu spectators.
This stadium getting built and the Raiders moving to Las Vegas won’t come without a price, however, and the initial tag is right around $1.4 billion. Even in a city where visitors lose an estimated $120 billion at the casinos, local taxpayers are expected to be asked to foot a $780 million subsidy bill.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal touts a huge, economic boon to the city as a result, but bear in mind the LVRJ is owned by Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the man leading the movement to bring the Raiders to Sin City.