Stuart Forster realizes an NFL dream of watching American Football at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
The idea of attending a National Football League (NFL) fixture in the USA is long something that has appealed to me. Watching American football became reality in the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Some people head to Vegas hoping to drop a jackpot. Others marry or attend a conference. As part of a weeklong stay whose highlights included dinner at The Bellagio’s Mayfair Supper Club, a front-row seat to the David Copperfield show at the MGM Grand and a day immersed among art at AREA15, watching football – the American variety, in which players don protective gear including shoulder pads and helmets – lived up to the high expectations I’d set of being present in a stadium.
I follow football but you don’t need to be clued up on the rules, standings within the conferences or players’ statistics to enjoy attending a game. Part of the experience is simply being present in the family-friendly atmosphere to munch a hotdog and down a beer. In common with myself, many of the vocal Raiders fans – collectively known as the Raider Nation – were visiting from out of town and enjoying the experience of being present in the state-of-the-art stadium.
Attending American sporting fixtures tends not to be marred by the bitter, deep-seated tribalism that British football (by that I mean soccer) fans accept as part of watching their favourite teams. Those of us who have followed our clubs away from home in the UK know that, at times, it can be foolhardy to wear club colours indicating allegiance.
Members of the Raider Nation walked to and from the Allegiant Stadium next to Texans fans proudly sporting their team’s jerseys and logo-bearing caps or Stetsons. There was no trouble at all. It was simply a gathering of sports fans from different parts of the country, intent on enjoying a day out and cheering on their respective team. That, surely, is the way it should be. Sports should unite, rather than divide.
There was no away section ringed by bouncer-like stewards in high-visibility vests. Fans of the Texans were dotted between home fans around the stadium. There was an element of good-natured teasing, jibes about the result and the way the Texans’ season was panning out from Raiders fans. The away fans bantered back. Not a punch, coin or sloppy pie was thrown.
On a global level, the Allegiant Stadium is impressive. Followers of the round-ball code who can recall the shabby British football grounds of the pre-Premier League era are likely to be downright wowed by what the Allegiant Stadium holds. Welcoming stewards, escalators to navigate between floors, craft beer by the pint and a decent choice of food along the well-lit concourses. Seats are padded and comfortable. Legroom is ample.
Despite being up in the fourth tier, my seat provided a fabulous view of the playing surface and the intermittent performances by the Raiders House Band. Their stage is a matter of paces from the towering Al Davies Memorial Torch. Named after a long-time Raiders owner, the torch is reminiscent of the Olympic flame and is illuminated during home games. Lighting it is an honour.
With a price tag of around $2 billion, the Allegiant Stadium should, of course, be good. It is air-conditioned and its opaque roof dissipates the sunlight that beats down on the Mojave Desert, ensuring that shadows don’t detract from spectators’ enjoyment of a game.
The Raiders relocated to Las Vegas in 2020 when the stadium opened. Previously, the franchise was based in Oakland and, from 1982 to 1994, in Los Angeles. Several of the fans I chatted with had driven or flown east from California to watch their team.
Frankly, I can’t imagine how I’d feel if Sunderland, my favourite football team, relocated an eight-hour drive away from their present home, the Stadium of Light. That would be the equivalent of moving to Lille in northern France. Yet it’s an established practice for professional sporting franchises to shift cities in the US. It was clear from the conversations that I had that many members of Raider Nation had remained loyal.
The teams entered the field dramatically. A huge flag was unfurled before kick-off and the national anthem was sung. The Raiderettes cheerleading team danced during timeouts. Iggy Azalea performed at half-time.
The football entertained too, with the Raiders running out 38 – 20 winners over the Texans. For me as a visitor watching American Football at the Allegiant Stadium that was just part of a memorable few hours in and around the Allegiant Stadium during my trip to Las Vegas.
Tell me more about watching American Football at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas
The Allegiant Stadium is the home of both the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders and the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels for their National Collegiate Athletic Association football fixtures. Typically, the football season begins in late August and continues into early February.
The professional season ends on Super Bowl Sunday. The fixture is celebrated by non-football fans for its half-time show and televised adverts. The 2024 edition of the biggest game in American football, Super Bowl LVIII, will be held in Las Vegas on 11 February 2024.
Arrive early for watching American football to experience tailgating – essentially a party in a car park – and wander through the fan zone. You’ll be able to participate in games, order food and drink at concession stands, watch videos in the build-up to the game and see fans dressed for the occasion.
Head to the Allegiant Stadium website to see what’s on and purchase tickets for games, events and concerts. You’ll also find practical information such as how to get there and the bag check policy.
Not in Vegas on a game day? Booking a stadium tour means an opportunity to visit areas including the Raiders’ locker room and the changing room used by the Raiderettes cheerleading team.
Gameday food and drink
After watching American football, walk along Mandalay Bay Road to the nearby Luxor Hotel and Casino for a drink in one of the bars.
Like the idea of a succulent steak? Continue along the Strip and enjoy a dinner at Jack Binion’s Steak, one of the restaurants in the Horseshoe Las Vegas (the casino known as Bally’s prior to December 2022). Afterwards, The Cabinet of Curiosities is an atmospheric, speakeasy-style lounge serving bespoke cocktails.
Prefer pizza? Head to The Venetian and dine at the BRERA osteria. Listen to opera singing while gazing out onto a scene reminiscent of northern Italy.
Getting about in Vegas
Free-to-use trams operate between some of the casinos on the Strip. Alternatively, Uber is a reliable way of travelling in the city.
Travel to Las Vegas
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic operate direct flights between London Heathrow and Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport. In March 2023, British Airways will begin direct services between London Gatwick and Las Vegas.
Find out more about watching American football and hings to do and see along the Strip and elsewhere in city on the Visit Las Vegas tourist information website.
See the Visit USA website for information about planning a trip to the US.