Ben Stepman would have loved this.
That’s what I was thinking when the Raiders broke ground on their practice headquarters behind M Resort Monday.
In Henderson, of course.
(Although whoever drew the city boundary must have been the same guy who gerrymandered those voting districts in Pennsylvania.)
Ben Stepman was the valley’s answer to Cal Worthington and his dog, Spot. He owned a car dealership on Boulder Highway, had a folksy demeanor and starred in ubiquitous TV commercials. He would offer you a screamin’ deal on a Hyundai for only $495 down.
He would sign off by holding his arms out and his palms up in a variation of the Allstate Insurance commercial while mentioning the location of the dealership.
“In Henderson, of course.”
It would have been awesome had the Raiders’ slick video presentation concluded by dusting off Ben Stepman’s old catchphrase. Instead, it closed with a bold voiceover and fanfare that proclaimed: “It’s home. It’s Henderson.”
It still sounded pretty sweet to Henderson Mayor Debra March, who joined Raiders president Marc Badain in putting the first — but nowhere near the last — shovels in the dirt.
Henderson’s big day
Representatives from virtually every branch of government and department at Henderson city hall were called to the podium to put on a chrome silver hard hat and shuffle terra firma. Here were the ones I wrote down before my pen ran out of ink:
Mayor, city council, city commissioners, city managers, city attorneys, city clerks.
Police, fire, community development, human resources, information and utility services, court administration.
Economic development, government and public affairs, performance and innovation, public works, parks and rec, finance, chamber of commerce, and, finally, someone named Jason Otter.
Judging from the show of shovels, it can be assumed Henderson is delighted to be the practice home of the Las Vegas Raiders starting in 2020.
Same on the other side of the ball.
“We’ve moved about 25 people from the Bay Area,” Badain said during the media scrum on a bleak afternoon. “With the exception of one, I think they all live in Henderson.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis, conspicuous by his absence, probably would have said something similar. (Davis reportedly was in the Bay Area comforting former Raiders’ defensive back George Atkinson, whose son, Josh, a former Notre Dame defensive back, recently passed away. )
Likewise for Gov. Steve Sisolak, who has a collection of hard hats and shovels that would rival those of Bob the Builder. Or Derek Carr, had he been made available.
The Raiders’ quarterback left the ceremony as soon as it ended. He signed one autograph and posed for two selfies before ducking out of a temporary tent fronting the construction site.
Gruden a no-show
Somebody said Carr probably was on his way to Anthem to check on a pricey piece of real estate upon which to build a mansion. But that would have been presumptuous, given the unpredictable nature of pro football — and the unpredictable future of pro football quarterbacks who attempt to see eye to eye with Jon Gruden.
The Raiders’ coach wasn’t on hand, either, allowing him to keep intact his streak of not mentioning Las Vegas in context as the team’s future home, or Henderson as its future practice home.
But Mayor March had more to say about the latter than former Raiders coach John Madden pontificating about a first-down measurement.
“The Raiders have proven themselves to be good corporate partners, so I suspect we’re going to have a long relationship,” she said, which the people in Alameda, California, the team’s current practice home, also may have said once. Or twice.
“We’ve (already) seen an increase of the land values as a result of them investing here, and we’re seeing more investment,” March added.
In Henderson, of course.
If Ben Stepman still were around, I bet he would have made the Raiders a screamin’ deal on a fleet of courtesy cars, though he might have had to lease them from Mercedes-Benz.
The NFL’s Raiders held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday for its new practice facility and corporate offices behind M Resort in Henderson. Here are some of its features:
— Three outdoor practice fields.
— 1 1/2 indoor practice fields.
— Training room, weight room, swimming pool, studio, locker room, meeting rooms, offices.
— Seating areas for spectators.
— 323,000 square feet of building space on 55 acres.