The Raiders finally have a home to call their own.
After spending almost their entire 60-year existence sharing stadiums that were sometimes old and out of date, the Raiders are set to open their $2 billion palace in the Las Vegas desert.
The Raiders (1-0) will host the New Orleans Saints (1-0) on Monday night when they get to show off Allegiant Stadium to the world more than three years after getting approval to move from Oakland to Las Vegas.
“It’s got everything you could imagine, and I can’t wait to share it with our fans,” coach Jon Gruden said. “People around the world, entertainers are going to be here. It’s going to be the hot spot if you ask me. It’s the coolest place I’ve seen.”
Unfortunately for the fans in Las Vegas who have been waiting for an NFL team and Raiders diehards in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, they’ll have to wait another year to get to see it in person.
With the COVID-19 pandemic making large crowds unsafe and owner Mark Davis insistent that either all the season-ticket holders or none would be allowed in the stadium, the Raiders are playing this season without fans.
“We wish they could experience it with us,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I’m sure they will be around somewhere. I’m sure there is a certain street or strip that they’ll be on that our fans will be at.”
When the team held its first practice at the new digs last month, Davis read a prepared statement to the players that said that his father’s mantra that the “greatness of the Raiders is in their future” had come to fruition and that day had arrived with the opening of the team’s “Field of Dreams.”
“Welcome to the Death Star, where our opponents’ dreams come to die,” Davis said.
Ignoring the fact that the Death Star was destroyed twice in the “Star Wars” movies, the Raiders now have a stadium worthy of the team’s rich history.
“I think it’s a cool name for our stadium, I don’t give damn about ‘Star Wars,’” Gruden said. “That’s what we’re calling our stadium and I don’t care what anybody else thinks. It’s a cool stadium, it’s a great name and we just have to play good when we’re in there.”
The 65,000-seat dome stadium, with the sliding lanai doors, translucent roof and modern amenities is a far cry from the team’s old home at the Oakland Coliseum.
That stadium that the Raiders shared with baseball’s Athletics featured infield dirt for early season games, occasional sewage spills and few of the revenue-generating features that teams desire.
“I had guys from other teams come in and be like, ‘This is kind of like mediocre a little bit,’” Raiders running back Jalen Richard said. “To now and seeing what we have now, I definitely won’t take any of this for granted and go out there and do what I can to help us win.”
The Raiders have never had a home like this one.
When the team began in the AFL in 1960, the Raiders split their first season between Kezar Stadium and Candlestick Park in San Francisco, sharing stadiums used by the 49ers and Giants.
The Raiders then played four seasons at a 22,000-seat temporary site in Oakland called Frank Youell Field that hosted high school games after the Raiders left.
They then had their own new home for the first time for a two-year stretch in 1966-67 at the Oakland Coliseum that soon also became home to the A’s. That forced the Raiders to play some games on infield dirt, relocate to Berkeley for a game in 1973 and sometimes not play a game on their home field until late October or November.
When Al Davis moved the team to Los Angeles in 1982, the team moved into the 60-year-old L.A. Coliseum, which they shared with the USC football team.
A search for their own home in the Los Angeles area never led to a new stadium, the Raiders moved back to the Oakland Coliseum where they shared that run-down facility with the A’s.
Attempts to build a football-only stadium in Oakland never panned out and the Raiders then looked to leave, first getting turned down by the NFL in a bid to go to Los Angeles before getting approval in 2017 to come to Las Vegas.
“This place definitely feels like home,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said. “I really hope we can do some great things here.”
It all starts on a festive Monday night that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first “Monday Night Football” game with a simulcast on ABC and a halftime concert by the Las Vegas band “The Killers” that was recorded on the roof of Caesar’s Palace.
Even the Saints are excited about the opportunity to be part of the opening.
“It’s absolutely a historic moment, right?” quarterback Drew Brees said. “First professional football team in Vegas, the opening of this new stadium, which I’m sure is tremendous. So yeah, there’s a lot of unique things to it and obviously the game itself.”
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report