LAS VEGAS — This city sat on the hot seat Monday night as part of the sports world watched in judgment.
Is Las Vegas truly worthy of an NFL team?
Sure, it’s got world-class casinos, hotels and shows. But will its residents, visitors and high rollers be willing to pack a stadium and make serious noise?
There was nowhere left to run and nowhere left to hide when the Las Vegas Raiders took the field at Allegiant Stadium for their season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. The fans, forced to watch from afar during the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic, got their first chance inside the $1.9 billion stadium for a regular-season game.
What they witnessed was the Raiders’ thrilling, 33-27 overtime victory. And the crowd of 61,756, how did it perform.
“I tip my hat to you, man," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said, referring to Las Vegas, and later he said the stadium was “one of the loudest places I’ve ever been in."
MORE ON VEGAS: It was a long-shot victory for the Las Vegas Raiders
Sorry, Vegas haters. On Monday night, like Carr, this city triumphed – in ear-deafening fashion.
Oh, Sin City had some help, with Gladys Knight energizing the place with a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. Then there was Ice Cube and fellow rapper Too Short pumping up the joint during a halftime show.
But even Vegas haters will have to face facts: It passed the test in resounding fashion.
The fans showed the ability to roar. The ability to boo (appropriately the opposing players and officials). And the ability to bounce back, with their team going from jubilation to demoralization and back to ecstasy faster than you can lose your 401(k) at the craps table.
What did Raiders coach Jon Gruden think of the fans and environment?
“Well, everybody knows what I think," Gruden said after the game. “That’s why I came back to coach. There’s nothing like the Raider Nation, nothing. And I just think this stadium, I think the people that were here tonight will probably go home feeling like they had a pretty good time. I just thought it was a great scene. A lot of black. A lot of noise. A lot of devoted, committed fans that I just love and cherish."
No one will ever confuse this stadium for the Black Hole, where Raider creatures collected to watch their beloved team at creaky Oakland Coliseum.
Just take a look at the Wynn Field Club, which contains 42 TVs and 29 plush couches with bottle-service and a nightclub vibe. On, and a 45,000-watt sound system, because do the two DJs on duty deserve anything less? The swanky, 11,000-square-foot facility runs across the northside end zone. When you lean over the cushioned wall behind the end zone, you’re close enough to the turf to smell the grass. Yep, real grass. And it’s a pricey experience.
Aaron Warren of Baltimore said he paid $10,000 for a leather couch that seats 12 people. He said he settled on that because the couches closer to the field cost up to $100,0000.
A spokesperson for Wynn Field Club said tickets to gain entry to the club start at $500 and the couches with bottle service start at $5,000 – depending on the event and availability. She said she could not confirm the other prices.
Warren, who owns an IT staffing company and flew here to watch his beloved Baltimore Ravens, said he expected the total bill for the night would be $15,000, more than he paid for his season tickets to the Ravens game.
“As ridiculous as this sounds, I think it’s a good deal," he said.
Soon he was drowned in sound.
Las Vegas got some outside help. Andrew Coronado drove his Raider Nation bus — previously a 1988 Chevy van — 11 hours from his home in Stockton, California – just like he did when the Raiders played in Oakland.
The tailgaters included plenty of hardcore — and a few kooky — Raiders fans, out in full force even though the temperatures climbed to 104 degrees at 2 p.m. But come game time, inside a cool, enclosed stadium, the fans faced their first test.
“They got to learn when to be loud," Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib said with a thin smile. “We got 4th down-and-1, and they’re louder than when the defense is 4th-and-one."
Let anyone try to divide a team and its new fans ...
“We love the enthusiasm," Nassib added. “It’s absolutely incredible the fans are back.
“It was my first experience with Raiders fans, by far the best NFL fans I’ve ever seen. They’re incredible, and we’re really lucky to have them here and all their support.’’
But it was Carr who paid new Raiders fans their biggest compliment: “Las Vegas, they did their thing, and they helped us pull out that win."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Raiders' Las Vegas fans hit jackpot with loud performance in opener