Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Sam Boyd Stadium 7000 E Russell Road Las Vegas, NV 89122
Year Opened: 1971
What Happens At Sam Boyd…
Sam Boyd Stadium is named after Sam Boyd, a notable figure in the Las Vegas hotel & casino industry. Built in 1971, the venue has been renovated multiple times, most recently in 2015, and now has a capacity of 35,500 (a horseshoe design with no fixed seating on the north side). Besides hosting the UNLV Rebels, the stadium has been home to several (short-lived) professional football teams, and is also home to the annual NCAA Las Vegas Bowl. Temporary bleachers can be erected in the north end zone as needed to add capacity, and the venue has held over 40K on several occasions, most notably in years when BYU played in the bowl game.
Food & Beverage 5
Sam Boyd Stadium has a wide variety of food and beverage options, including plenty of alcohol; concession stands offer everything you would expect at a game and then some, including pizza, burgers, hot dogs, brats, smoked sausage, chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches, and Blings!, as well as snacks such as popcorn, churros, cotton candy, pretzels, and several varieties of nuts (salted, cinnamon glazed, and chocolate covered). Main dishes range in price from $4-$9, while snacks cost $3-$6.
Adult beverage options at Sam Boyd Stadium include several stands that have full (or at least semi-full) bars, as well as stands that only sell beer, and even specialty stands that sell Guinness products. You can also buy beer for $7 at the main stands (Bud Light, Coors Light, or Miller Lite). Non-alcoholic choices include Coke products in bottles or from the fountain, Powerade, bottled water, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
The crowd is not very large at UNLV games lately, but the venue is still worth a visit. The decor at Sam Boyd Stadium really plays up the Vegas angle, with poker/casino-themed icons surrounding the distance markers on the field, the slogan “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” painted in each end zone, and even images of the Vegas skyline behind the north end zone; they also play the song “Viva Las Vegas” before every game.
Besides the Vegas imagery, you will also see the mascot, Hey Reb, being chauffeured around in a red and black car decorated with Rebels logos. He drives around the parking lots before the game to help rev up the crowd, and rides around again just before kickoff when he leads the team onto the field – the second time is much better, because this time there are actually five cars, the first one sporting a giant UNLV flag, and the others bearing flags with the letters U, N, L, and V. These flags won’t be seen again, though – while at most stadiums, the cheer squad runs around with their flags after every home team score, here at Sam Boyd Stadium, they shoot off red and white confetti instead.
The best thing about Sam Boyd Stadium is that all of the seats have chair backs – specifically, all the seats are bleachers with chair back rails. This is much more comfortable than most stadiums (which only have chair backs on the alumni side, if at all).
The stadium is located in Vegas – what more could you ask? While there are fewer choices near the stadium itself (south of city center, near Henderson), there are plenty of great restaurants in Vegas, too many to even begin naming them. The best ones are the buffets, where the food is very high quality, but the prices are low (because the hotels make their money off the gambling).
There is plenty to do in Vegas besides dining out – in addition to the myriad casinos, there are plenty of clubs you can visit or shows to take in at The Mirage or at similar venues. You may also want to visit Hoover Dam, located just a few miles south of Las Vegas.
A hotel in Vegas can easily cost over $100 per night (plus resort fees), but it is definitely worth it to be close to the action, especially if you can find something close to the strip – that place is bustling all night long! Lots of the hotels run specials, and try to get it back from the gambling, so you should be able to find a good rate. Remember that Vegas is located in the middle of a desert, however, so you won’t find much except coyotes if you stray too far from the city limits.
The Rebels fans who show up are passionate, loud, and wear school colors, but there aren’t that many of them. In fact, you might see just as many visiting fans as you see UNLV fans.
Officially, attendance is listed at 20K per game, but the actual attendance is a lot lower, more in the 10K to 15K range. They do sell team gear in the stadium, if you forget to bring your own.
There are plenty of ramps in Sam Boyd Stadium, parking is free behind the south end zone, and while there are not a lot of bathrooms, there are more than enough to accommodate the size of the crowd. Depending on where you are coming from, getting to Vegas could be a long lonely drive through the desert, so you may prefer to make the trek in the daytime.
The parking on the south side is in gravel lots, and the area is actually one continuous zone with entrances on either end, so pay attention to the numbered posts along the fence to remember where you parked. There is no tailgating in this area; for that you will need to park in the grass on the north side, which will cost about $10.
There are gates on the east, west, and south sides, but the main entrance is on the south, which is closest to the parking for most fans. This is also where the ticket booths and will-call are located.
The concourse under the seats is plenty wide, but there are numerous pillars you have to navigate around, so watch for those – at least they are painted in Rebels colors. There are concessions stands on both sides of the aisle, however, so it should be easy to find what you want – the main stands are on the inside (closer to the field), and the satellite stands are along the outside.
Return on Investment 4
Like most college football venues, ticket prices at Sam Boyd Stadium vary by game, with the cheap seats starting at $14 for some games, up to $20 or more for other games. However, since UNLV games rarely sell out, you should be able to find tickets on the secondary market, and you can always buy cheap seats and move to a different section.
I didn’t notice any promotions, like free t-shirts or rally towels, but programs are free, as is parking, and concession prices are reasonable, so seeing a Rebels game is definitely worthwhile from a cost perspective, given the unique imagery and fun antics of the mascot. Plus, it gives you an excuse to see Vegas – as if you need one!
Enjoy the view of the Rockies – people always seem to rave about the mountain views, I guess because they are a rarity in college football, since most teams are near the coasts.
We should also mention all the Vegas imagery – the only thing lacking is a slot machine.
A third point for the other events held here, such as the annual Las Vegas Bowl, which provide additional opportunities to visit this modern, fun venue.
UNLV may not have the most competitive team lately, but their stadium is definitely worth a look, and the location cannot be beat. And if you pick the right opponent, you just might witness a Rebel victory.