Las Vegas has been known for glamourous sporting events, such as the NBA All-Star game and Pay-Per-View Boxing Matches, but still remains without a professional franchise. Until a team from one of the big four leagues (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA) actually does relocate to Las Vegas, the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels are the most popular team in town.
There is a misconception that the UNLV football nickname is the "Runnin' Rebels," however that only refers to the basketball team and the football team is simply known as the "Rebels".
While the basketball team plays near the Las Vegas strip in the community known as Paradise, the football team plays approximately seven miles away from the strip, closer to Henderson, NV at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The Stadium opened in 1971 after a construction cost of $3.5 million and was originally known as Las Vegas Stadium. The stadium would have two other names before finally landing on Sam Boyd Stadium in 1994. Sam Boyd, who passed in 1993, was a Las Vegas businessman who created the Boyd Gaming Corporation and had a part in hotels such as The Sahara, Sam's Town Hotel, and The Mint.
The capacity now sits at 36,800, however the stadium has been expanded to over 40,000 on several occasions. The stadium also plays home to the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League and the annual MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. In the past, the stadium was home to the Las Vegas Posse of the CFL and Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are not a lot of food options in the immediate area surrounding the stadium, so if fans are not tailgating, they may rely heavily on what is offered inside of the stadium.
Some of the signature items include the Rebel Dog ($4), Bratwurst, smoked sausage, or hamburger ($5), chicken sandwich ($6), chicken fingers ($7), garlic fries ($4), and pizza (cheese for $6 and pepperoni for $7).
Some of the sides include pretzel ($3), nachos ($3, add extra cheese for $1), popcorn ($2), peanuts ($4), red ropes ($3), gummi bears ($3), sour candy ($3), pecans, dippin dots, Italian ice, Kettle corn ($5), and cheese popcorn ($6).
The beverage options include soda (Pepsi products - small for $3 and large for $4), Gatorade ($3), coffee/hot chocolate ($3), and water ($3). Being an off-campus stadium, alcohol sales are prevelant and beer can be had for $6 to $7.
One last thing to note are the smoothies offered (Strawberry, Mango, or Pina Colada - small for $3 or large for $5). The adults can get smoothie mixers with rum, tequila, or vodka ($6 or $10 for a double shot).
For a city that is so alive at all hours of the day and night, Sam Boyd Stadium definitely seemed a bit too relaxed.
The player introductions to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" as the players ran out from underneath an inflatable arch that could barely stand under its own weight was hardly exciting.
The stands were one-third Rebel fans, one-third opposing fans, and one-third empty. This in turn, did not provide the electric home crowd college football atmosphere that I have become so accustomed to.
The PA announcer did a phenomenal job of engaging the fans throughout the game, which did improve the atmosphere quite a bit. He could ask, "How loud can you get on a third down(?)" to which the crowd would erupt in cheers. Other callouts he made included ,"What did you think of that play Rebel fans?"
The student section had a nice "Re-bels" chant after a touchdown was scored that I would liken to the Atlanta Braves famed tomahawk chop. There was also a "U-N-L-V" chant that I would call similar to the a UCLA "8-clap".
Lastly, I should mention the mascot "Hey Reb," who is often parading around the field trying to engage the fans more and more.
I think that simply because the Las Vegas strip is just seven miles away, the neighborhood is worth an immediate three points.
Understanding that not everyone wants to deal with all of the debauchery of the strip, there are several options closer to the stadium. A multitude of fast food options are nearby including Taco Bell, Jack-In-The-Box, Pizza Hut, and Popeyes. Nearby sit-down chains include Hooters, Red Lobster, Red Robin, and Mimi's Cafe;.
The Rum Runner is a family owned restaurant (with three locations in Las Vegas) that offers two pool tables and five dart boards. As for the food, you can build your own 1/2 lb burger for $3.99 (some toppings extra), a plethora of wing selections, and all sorts of fried appetizers.
Some of the local fans also told me to try Apache Joe's Bar and Grill or Mulligan's Pub & Grill, but unfortunately the short duration of my stay did not allow me to check either one out.
The fans of the Rebels have the immediate disadvantage of being a team playing in one of the greatest vacation destinations on earth. Many opposing fans use an away game at UNLV as an excuse to take a trip to Las Vegas.
As I entered the parking lot, I saw what appeared to be some of the most dedicated fans, clad in scarlet, tailgating for hours prior to the game. I saw an amazing amount of signs and shirts with derogatory statements towards a competing school that plays in Reno, NV. It seems odd to me, considering the Nevada Wolf Pack team was not the opponent today. It shows just how deep the rivalry runs between these two schools.
Once inside the stadium, the student section was certainly passionate, but the balance of the fans were too scattered about the stands to make a lasting impression.
While the fans reacted appropriately for a big play, they really seemed to take cues from the PA announcer before really getting riled up.
The Rebel fans are also at a definite disadvantage to the fan bases of other schools as the stadium is off campus, making it more difficult for students and some of the fans who are closer to the strip to get to the game.
The stadium itself is roughly seven to ten miles from the airport, the strip, and the UNLV campus. It is a few minutes off the Las Vegas Expressway and seemingly most easily accessed from the Boulder Highway.
When I arrived at the stadium, I noticed several lots that were charging for parking, but later learned that these fees were for those who desired spacious tailgating spots. As there is quite a bit of open space surrounding the stadium, the balance of parking spots appear to be free of charge. In years past, the parking lots were nightmarish as dust would engulf the area. Prior to the 2011 season, the school paid roughly $200,000 to add an asphalt milling substance over the parking areas.
Inside the stadium, the restrooms were extremely spacious with many stations, but still had a rather aged feel to them.
The concourse was spacious and it was rather easy to get around the horseshoe shaped seating area.
It seems that the majority of the seating options range from $25-$45 in price. I was disappointed that the most inexpensive ticket in the stadium was $25, considering that the stadium was rather empty and my view was horrible. I would recommend simply buying a more inexpensive ticket and moving to one of the many open seats available.
I was able to park for free without too much of a hike and while the concessions were not spectacular, they were all reasonably priced.
Considering most of the other entertainment in Las Vegas can easily eat into your wallet quickly, a game at Sam Boyd Stadium does present a reasonable value and gets fans away from the hustle and bustle near the strip.
When most people picture the desert, they simply picture miles of sand and no real curves to the landscape. The area surrounding Sam Boyd Stadium provides a stark contrast to that perception as there are many beautiful mountains surrounding the stadium. I would encourage fans to climb to the top of the stadium and take in the surrounding at sunset for some truly beautiful scenery. Fans can even see the strip if they stand near the pressbox.
Near the center of the coucourse, fans can take in the Clark County High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. High School athletics builds the foundations for many of these collegiate careers, and I always appreciate a nod to some of the local coaches who have made a difference in the sport.
The Rebels have to compete with external entertainment options more so than any other Division I school in the NCAA. While the men's basketball team plays only minutes from the strip, the football team has the additional challenge of being a bit away from most of the Las Vegas action. While I fully expected the stadium to be in rough shape after 40 years, it still proved very serviceable after all of these years. The push for a more modern stadium to lure a professional team will certainly be in play for years to come, but until it does, Sam Boyd Stadium provides a great home for the Rebels.
Follow Drew's Travel's Through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.
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