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Las Vegas Bowl already has one eye on home of the future

The bauble encrusted football, the helmets from the participating conference members, the decadent desserts, Brent Musburger on the official highlights video — all the promotional trappings for the final Las Vegas Bowl to be played at Sam Boyd Stadium were in place at Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel on Thursday.

Next year, they’ll probably add a double-edged sword with the Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference logos adorning the scabbard.

The Las Vegas Bowl in 2020 will move from quaint Sam Boyd Stadium to ginormous Allegiant Stadium on the Strip with a new Power Five hookup. Everybody around here is pretty excited about the SEC’s inclusion, with the possible exception of the Mountain West, which I’m told will receive a lovely parting gift from Wink Martindale after this year’s game on Dec. 21.

The new affiliation and setting are seen as a great opportunity for the Las Vegas Bowl to improve its position in the lucrative bowl game bonanza. As the game’s executive director John Saccenti said after dessert was served and calorie counts were blown from here to Tuscaloosa, it would be naive to think the city hasn’t already established the College Football Playoff National Championship game as its primary receiver.

He’s excited about that.

And also a little uneasy.

More seats to fill

“Every time that video gets played and you hear Brent Musburger talk about the future, I get goosebumps,” Saccenti said after the annual luncheon that kicks off Las Vegas Bowl corporate ticket sales.

“I also get really scared. How are we going sell (more) tickets, how are we going to sell (more attractive) sponsorships? The good thing is we have tremendous support; we have a committee that is as powerful as any in town and they’re excited about this.”

That’s also what New Mexico coach Rocky Long said before going up against Oregon State and running back Steven Jackson of Las Vegas in Las Vegas Bowl XII and falling on its own double-edged sword. Jackson scored five touchdowns in a 55-14 Beavers victory.

But whereas New Mexico had only weeks to prepare for the Eldorado High locomotive in shoulder pads, Saccenti and his committee have more than a year to figure out what to do with all those seats at the Raiders’ new football palace.

“We’re going from 38,000 seats to 65,000 seats, and there’s obviously a huge (need) to sell more tickets,” Saccenti said, trying not to swallow hard. “We’re also going from a pretty affordable combined team payout ($2.76 million) to one that could possibly be close to double.

“The good thing for us is we’ve created a very intriguing (conference) matchup that has created a lot of attention; we’ve formed a phenomenal partnership with the Raiders. And so although it’s a lot more work, I think it’s going to be a lot more fun as well.”

That’s what Rocky Long said, too. Without Urlacher.

Tickets going up

With $20 end-zone tickets expected to go the way of leather helmets to meet the new payouts to the participating teams, it might not be easy filling 65,000 seats for a game featuring multiple Power Five members — teams with spoiled fan bases who might consider a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl a booby prize for an underachieving 8-4 season.

They may be tempted to stay home and watch the Boca Raton Bowl on TV.

But do not discount the allure of Las Vegas and the return of the 99-cent Golden Gate shrimp cocktail.

When a 6-5 Southern California team was selected to oppose Utah in the first Las Vegas Bowl featuring a Pac-12 tie-in on Christmas Day 2001, it was said Trojans fans would turn up their collective nose on making the short hop, skip and jump. But game-day traffic was backed up from here to Barstow as 30,894 turned out to watch the Utes hold USC to one rushing yard and plant Carson Palmer in the artificial turf.

Yes, there’s always a chance next year’s Las Vegas Bowl could get stuck with Kentucky and Colorado and 65,000 seats to fill during a challenging month for tourism. In that case, don’t be surprised if the committee reaches out to the Popeye’s chicken sandwich people to inquire about interest in a presenting sponsorship.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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