Allegiant Stadium, One Year Later: Las Vegas Raiders Find Comfort Zone in First Games With Fans
Every week promises stellar acts, high-quality production elements
On Sept. 21, the Las Vegas Raiders celebrated the one-year anniversary of the opening of Allegiant Stadium. Since that 34-24 win over the New Orleans Saints in front of empty seats, one of the National Football League’s two newest venues has roared to life with the return of fans and is beginning to create its own game-day experience in Sin City.
“We spent a lot of time making improvements and getting operational feedback to create efficiencies, but, at this point, the resources and employees that Allegiant Stadium has allowed us to bring into this building are some of the best in the country,” says Justin Lange, manager, audio, video, broadcast, and Cisco Vision operations, Allegiant Stadium. “It has been a fantastic experience so far, and we’re only at the tip of the iceberg.”
Time for Teaching: Football-Hungry Audience Continues To Learn the Game
In summer 2020, the production team was busy developing its creative identity before the start of its inaugural season in Las Vegas. By the time preseason and regular-season games came around, it had been announced that all home games that season were going to be played behind closed doors. This decision left a lot of the game-day–production strategy in question: content was put together for only the eyes of the players and coaches on the field — with social media becoming the main connection between franchise and fans and the control-room staff reduced to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The delayed opening postponed Las Vegas-based fans’ first-hand experience of professional football. They were able to get a taste by watching games on television, but, when they were finally permitted through the turnstiles, there were still finer aspects of the game to experience.
“We’re still learning our fans, and our fans are still learning football, but it’s definitely great when you have their energy to support all that we’re doing,” says Justin Casserly, director, game and event presentation, Las Vegas Raiders. “It was all speculation on what Raider Nation meant until you got a sense of it during our preseason game. Our players have said that they haven’t played in a louder building. We’re still working on training [fans] when to be loud and how to be loud.”
Some of that training is, for example, cheering loudly on defense to disrupt the other team’s signal calling and being more subdued on offense to give quarterback Derek Carr the ability to communicate effectively. Up in the control room, the crew helping the fans with this learning curve has grown to a staff of 40. After a tough year directing a lot of the production alone, Casserly has reinforcements.
“I was able to get through a full season last year without any team members,” he notes. “Now I have one full-time manager who I was able to bring over from Miami. There’s a lot more traffic that we have to drive through, like partnership elements that require people to be in their position for the live shot to be staged well. I’ve had to bring in an associate producer to facilitate all the different information that comes through the control room as well as simultaneously teach [our crew] about what the NFL is since many of them have limited experience.”
Super Bowl–Level Production: In-Venue Show Promises To Wow Fans Every Week
It’s hard to not have a good time in Las Vegas, and, in keeping with the city’s natural vibe, Casserly and his crew present high-quality and high-energy content every home game. Some professional teams use the term show loosely, but the show at Allegiant Stadium is truly one in every sense of the word, including the use of a two-minute countdown to showtime.
Since the start of the 2021 season, the run of show has featured a star-studded list of performers, as well as small nods to the aura of the Raiders. These nods include introducing each position group to the tune of “The Autumn Wind” as the players take the field for pregame warmups and the Star Wars Imperial March as they exit to the locker room. Before the game vs. the Chicago Bears on Oct. 10, the Raiders called on magician Criss Angel for a stunt in which he untangled himself from a straitjacket in under 30 seconds while suspended upside down 100 ft. over the field. Not only did he defy the odds, but his presence spotlighted the Raiders’ efforts toward fulfilling the league’s Crucial Catch initiative: Angel’s 7-year-old son is in a fight against leukemia.
As game time nears, the Raiderettes, a coordinated light show, and a flashy intro video featuring many of the city’s iconic buildings welcome the team to the gridiron. An activation that debuted last season is the ceremonial lighting of the Al Davis Memorial Torch at the north end of the venue. The gesture pays homage to the team’s first owner and has been a tradition since his passing in 2011. The lighting on Oct. 10 was two days after the 10-year anniversary of Davis’s death. Honorees who have ignited the torch include former Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Las Vegas Labor Union Leader Tommy White, and the late owner’s widow, Carol Davis.
“Last year, we [used the torch to] recognize those who were big members of the community, contributors towards feeding the homeless, and members of the military,” says Casserly. “This year, we’re honoring people who were pivotal in making this move [to Las Vegas] an opportunity.”
Right before kickoff, Bruce Buffer, the in-ring voice of the UFC, fires up the crowd as he does before a marquee fight in the Octagon. Buffer was alongside Steve Aoki for the Raiders’ first home game, against the Baltimore Ravens, on Monday Night Football. As the game progresses, musical performances are accompanied by a 19-piece band in front of the torch; at halftime, top-tier artists like Ludacris keep the crowd engaged during the extended lull in the action. All these elements build toward one goal: providing a unique and extravagant time for fans who live in a city founded on flamboyance.
“We’re continually trying to push the envelope and looking to put on a Super Bowl–level production every single week,” Casserly adds. “The technology that’s constantly evolving and emerging allows us to streamline some of those production elements to create a very beautiful and cohesive show from start to finish.”
Flexible Facility: Technological Backbone Accommodates Diverse Events
Like many high-profile sports venues, Allegiant Stadium hosts many activities besides Raiders football. In the past year, some of these events were The Garth Brooks Stadium Tour on July 10, the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final between the U.S. and Mexico on Aug. 1, WWE SummerSlam on Aug. 21, the 2021 Leagues Cup Final between the Seattle Sounders and Club León on Sept. 22, and all six home games of UNLV football. To serve this diversity of productions, Lange and company deployed sure-fire solutions in both the control room and the lower bowl.
The one-year-old control room, with technologies integrated by Alpha Video, features an Evertz EXE 2110 router providing full-IP capabilities. The goal is a flexible workspace to power the wide variety of shows.
“We have all the technology available to us to make this work for not only the Raiders but also other tenants,” says Lange. “This control room gets used for a lot of different things, so we have to be able to flex it for whatever’s coming into this building. Every week is a new challenge and experience since we’re pushing the boundaries on normal entertainment during an NFL regular-season football game, but our job is to make Justin’s job easier so he can create whatever he and his team want to do.”
What Comes Next: Allegiant Stadium Sets Benchmark for Future Venues
Comparing the Raiders’ first season in Allegiant Stadium with where they are one year later is night and day. In terms of equipment, the groundwork laid down and the practice by Lange and his team have made the building one of the most technologically sound sports venues around. Even as HDR, 4K, and IP continue to mature, the control room is suitable for potential enhancements or upgrades over the years.
“There’s always going to be new technology,” Lange says, “but this space is the most flexible control room in the country right now. We’re ready to do any event here because of the extra work that we’ve put in over the last year.”
The building was truly built to last from a tech perspective, but, between the moment fans arrive and the time they step through the exit door, Las Vegas Raiders home games are becoming a spectacle to remember. From empty seats to standing-room only, the production roots being established rivals other entertainment in town and gives new NFL fans a reason to cheer for the Silver and Black.
“We had a couple of concerts over the summer that saw crowds anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000,” says Casserly. “But [seeing] 65,000 on that first Monday night was an emotional moment for myself, the team, and everybody who worked so hard behind the scenes to get us here. The biggest thing for the future of Allegiant is the experience that we’ve been able to cultivate, and, so far, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback.”
The Las Vegas Raiders’ next home game will be vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Fox Sunday, Oct. 24 at 4:05 p.m. ET.