Allegiant Stadium, the one-and-a-half-year-old home of the Las Vegas Raiders, is no doubt a state-of-the-art stadium. Sure, it may resemble a giant Roomba that’s resting in the desert, but the building is still gleaming on the outside and rather breathtaking on the inside.
Something became obvious, though, to this first-time visitor who was stopping by along with the Washington Football Team for Sunday’s game: It was the experience, not the $1.8 billion project, that was most special for those in attendance.
To put it simply: It was quite easy to envy the fans who made it to the contest.
It was also quite easy to notice how much more fun things were at Allegiant than they are at FedEx Field.
The musical lineup was a loaded one: Vanessa Hudgens sang the national anthem, Rev. Run blasted music at halftime and Diplo hosted a concert in the Wynn Field Club behind one of the end zones after the fourth quarter concluded. The Raiders also had a house band that slayed during multiple timeouts.
There were also traditions that kept Silver and Black supporters engaged, even as their squad turned in a relatively bland effort.
Before some of the matchup’s most important plays, the public address announcer would, in a voice that was both booming and monotone, come on the speakers and initiate a call and response with the home fans. His call was, “Raiiiiiiiidddddderrrrrrrsss.” Their response, meanwhile, was to generally lose their minds. Simple, yet effective.
In addition to that, the organization invited a guest to help initiate the lighting of the Al Davis memorial torch, a towering structure that sits high above the same end zone that Diplo eventually made his way to.
Now, that process was actually underwhelming — it appeared like the torch-lighter merely had to push a button and, suddenly, it was lit — but it still was a unique ceremony, the kind of thing that just doesn’t exist in Landover, Md.
Another nice touch came during one stoppage in play when the Raiders’ two in-game hosts headed to a box where two-time Super Bowl winner Jim Plunkett was hanging to deliver him a cake and lead the entire crowd in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for one of their heroes.
Washington should take note when it attempts to celebrate one of their legends in the future.
Perhaps the best thing Vegas did, however, was plaster its logo and other items that highlighted the franchise’s history everywhere it could.
Their pirate was omnipresent, as his face was featured on water bottles, bags of popcorn and countless other surfaces on the concourse. The famous “Just win baby” quote was displayed on entrances to various sections of seating, and team-centric towels were draped over every seat (key word: every).
The Raiders essentially reinforced their branding whenever possible. It made quite the impression.
Of course, comparing where Las Vegas plays with where Washington plays is a totally unfair fight. The former was just built, while the latter has been around since 1997.
That’s not exactly the point of this review, because when Washington creates its new residence, it’ll have the same access to the same resources that make Allegiant Stadium’s appearance so appealing. Owner Dan Snyder and president Jason Wright, who have devoted time in the past to tour numerous sites, should understand what matters on the construction and technology side.
What isn’t guaranteed for Washington — but what has to be the goal — is to facilitate a similarly entertaining, never-a-dull-moment vibe whenever its next stadium is opened.
Yes, Las Vegas is a city that can’t be replicated, and the area’s mystique definitely drifted through the vents of Allegiant to contribute to the mood. If Dan Snyder’s team moves to, say, a suburb in Virginia or a new part of Maryland, it won’t hold a money-and-booze-scented candle to Vegas. The only location that would feel special would be where RFK Stadium is.
That said, Washington could certainly use its own version of weekly traditions, unifying chants and overall energy that the Raiders fostered. In what’s often referred to as a copycat league, those aspects are absolutely worth borrowing from when FedEx Field’s successor is ready for business.