All eyes shifted toward Sam Boyd Stadium when the Oakland Raiders filed for relocation to Las Vegas this week.
Can the 40,000-seat stadium on East Russell Road be the temporary home of the Silver and Black? UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy says yes.
“I think it’s a possibility because of what we just saw with the San Diego Chargers moving,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “I think so many people would be so sad, and it would be difficult to leave Oakland, and I think that if (the Raiders) decide to come here early, I think there’s no city like Las Vegas and we can get our stadium ready and prepared.”
Sam Boyd Stadium, which opened in 1971, is the home of the UNLV football team and owned by the university. The Rebels and the Raiders plan to move into the new 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion domed stadium, but the state-of-the-art facility is not expected to open until the 2020 season.
“It’s going to be a great facility, and we’re all excited to be part of this new state-of-the-art stadium,” Kunzer-Murphy said.
The Chargers left San Diego for Los Angeles last week and will play at the 30,000-seat StubHub Center in Carson, California, for the next two seasons, by far the smallest NFL venue. Sam Boyd Stadium can hold more fans, but it trails in infrastructure compared to the StubHub Center, which opened in 2003.
Clark County commissioner Steve Sisolak doesn’t see the Raiders coming early to play at the outdated home of the Rebels. It’s been reported that the Raiders plan on signing one-year leases to play at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum until they’re ready to move to Las Vegas.
“Sam Boyd Stadium is not suitable for NFL games,” Sisolak said in a Thursday interview with the Review-Journal. “The capacity is too low. The infrastructure is too old. It’s not up to current standards in terms of television, which is extremely important in the NFL.”
Kunzer-Murphy said the university would be willing to make upgrades at Sam Boyd Stadium to accommodate the Raiders’ needs if the franchise decides to come early.
“Nobody does it better than Las Vegas; we can do things that people say are impossible,” said Kunzer-Murphy, who will step down as UNLV athletic director on June 30. “That’s what I love about our city so much.
”If the Raiders decide to come early, the city of Las Vegas would welcome that, and we can change and upgrade our stadium so it works for an NFL team for a short time while we build the other stadium.”
The Raiders need 24 of 32 votes from NFL owners to approve the team’s relocation to Las Vegas. The vote isn’t expected to come until late March during the owners’ meetings in Phoenix.