Updated July 19, 2020 - 6:20 pm
This was supposed to be a time of celebration for a Raiders franchise set to move into a shiny new palace just off the Strip.
Instead, owner Mark Davis on Sunday gave the clearest indication yet that Allegiant Stadium’s 65,000 seats will sit empty on game days this season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“If you asked me right now, I would say we will go with no fans in the stands,” Davis said by phone.
Davis reiterated his stance that either all of the fans who have purchased tickets will be allowed to attend games or none of them will.
The latter is the far more likely scenario.
“Absolutely not,” Davis said when asked if he’s optimistic the team will be able to play before a full stadium. “The only way I believe that can happen is if they delayed the start of the season rather than trying to start it right now in the middle of the uncertainty we have.
“I believe we could get all the way up to November and still get a full season and playoffs and Super Bowl in, and if we went to November, we may have a better feel for what’s going on with the virus with some type of inoculation or something of that nature that could give us a better feel for the safety of the players, fans and everyone else.”
Davis said his stance applies to himself. He said he won’t attend games if fans aren’t allowed to. It’s a disappointing reality for Davis, who is on the verge of taking the franchise into a new era.
“We’ve been wanting to have our phenomenal stadium and this practice facility, and everything was going so well for the Raider organization,” he said. “All our dreams were coming true here in Las Vegas. The whole city has just been phenomenal and then real life steps in the way.”
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the sports world, forcing mass postponements and cancellations as organizations and leagues scramble to come up with safe and practical ways to return to action. Most of those plans have involved playing in empty venues.
The NFL has offered no specific guidance on attendance, leaving it to individual teams and local governments. At least four teams have announced specific plans for reduced capacities, and it’s unlikely any teams will allow full attendance.
Davis expressed frustration with the lack of a cohesive policy after a summer in which the league office mandated a level playing field. When one team facility was ordered closed by the local government, all had to shut down. Not every team was able to have draft prospects visit and do a physical in person, so none could.
“Every damn thing was on an equitable basis and all based on the least fortunate club in every circumstance,” Davis said. “And then for some reason, and I can’t read their minds, they decided when it comes to attendance it was up to the teams and their local governments and the league wasn’t going to be a part of it.”
Owners voted 31-1 last month to clear out the first eight rows in all stadiums to create distance between fans and players and allow space to sell ads to help make up for anticipated revenue losses.
Davis was the holdout.
“When that happened, a lot of teams didn’t have a problem with that because they’ve got extra seats where they can move people around,” he said. “Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we’re sold out. We don’t have any place to move people. That made a very difficult situation for me. I can’t tell one fan, let alone 8,000, that they’re not going to be able to go to that first inaugural game in a stadium they helped build. I just can’t do it, and I don’t know of a fair way to put, say, 20 percent of the fans in the stadium. It’s just not the vision we had for the stadium and for Las Vegas.”
Davis said if the Raiders move forward with no fans, they would do an “Inaugural Season 2.0” in 2021 to give the city and stadium a proper celebration.
The first regular-season game at Allegiant Stadium is scheduled for Sept. 21 on “Monday Night Football” against the Saints.