By GILBERT MANZANO
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
The Raiders are officially coming to Las Vegas, and that means the palace they’ll play in will soon go under construction.
With the Raiders, Southern Nevada is guaranteed at least eight NFL games per year, and that also could come with Super Bowls, Pro Bowls, NFL Drafts and many other pro football events.
But what other big-time events can the new 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion domed stadium attract once it’s completed in 2020?
Look no further than the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, as the perfect example for what to expect in Las Vegas with a state-of-the-art venue.
The home of the Arizona Cardinals has hosted a Super Bowl, a college football national title game and this weekend’s college basketball Final Four all in the past three years.
“Getting a new stadium is absolutely the reason why we’re hosting these events,” said Tom Sadler, the president and CEO of the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority. “Without a domed stadium, you’re for sure not getting a Final Four.
“When we were first pushing for this stadium, those are the type events that we said if we build it, they will come.”
Numerous sporting events have taken place in Arizona since the University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006. But Sadler said it’s no guarantee Las Vegas will get the major events just because it has a new stadium.
“They are not automatic awards just because a stadium is built,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be in the rotation. You have to compete with other cities and other states that are very formidable.
“Geographically, Los Angeles will also be competing now with their stadium. All three cities (Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix) have the nice weather, but it still comes down to which city puts up the best bid.”
Las Vegas isn’t a shoo-in for the major events, but the stadium at least puts the city in the race.
The UNLV football team could benefit by being able to leverage more home-and-home contracts with top programs such as Ohio State and Michigan. UNLV will play Ohio State on the road in September, and it traveled to Michigan in 2015.
“I think we already do a good job of getting those type of programs to Las Vegas,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “UCLA has been here. Wisconsin has been here. BYU is coming this year.
“Not sure it will boost the scheduling, but there are so many advantages with having a new stadium. A world-class facility in the right location can impact your student body. It will increase attendance, but part of it is winning. And we have to do that consistently.”
College football neutral-site games could be in play for Las Vegas. The University of Phoenix Stadium recently hosted a game between Arizona and BYU that drew more than 50,000.
“We’ve been trying to get into the neutral-site games, and our first one was wildly successful,” Sadler said. “It was a great game, and it really set the table up for us to do that again in the future.
“The Arizona sporting scene has changed so much, and now Las Vegas is going through it.”
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Contact Gilbert Manzano at email@example.com or 702-383-0492. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.