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Raiders giving fans, Las Vegas plenty of reasons to cheer — BLOG

Updated September 21, 2020 - 9:27 pm

9:20 p.m.

‘Everything you could’ve asked for’

As the game clock ticked closer to zero, the atmosphere inside the Mandalay Bay sportsbook was electric.

A long field goal that sealed the game for the Raiders sent the crowd erupting into cheers, and the rowdiness continued as the clock turned to “final.”

James Sievers, 45, of Monroe, Louisiana, traveled to Las Vegas just for the game so he could experience the atmosphere.

“I just wanted to be here, just for this historic night,” he said.

He booked the trip back when the schedule was announced and knew he wasn’t going to be in the stadium regardless of the decision to play without fans. The experience, he said, was “priceless.”

“It was everything you could’ve asked for, man,” he said. “Everything.”

Andrew Hernandez, 35, of San Jose, California, had long planned to visit Las Vegas for the home opener to show support for the team he has cheered for his whole life.

“It was tough, them coming out here, but being out here and kind of seeing what’s going on, the city really loves them,” he said.

— Blake Apgar

9 p.m.

‘Viva Las Vegas’

As soon as the clock ran out on the Raiders’ 34-24 victory to open Allegiant Stadium on Monday night, Kerry Faughnan cued up the jukebox at PT’s Gold in North Las Vegas to play Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas.”

Faughnan wore a Boston Red Sox shirt and hat but was one of the most boisterous Raiders supporters among the crowd, which filled nearly every socially distant spot at the bar and tables.

“I grew up in New York and I’m a Giants fan, but I’m absolutely going to support the Raiders,” said Faughnan, who added that he’s lived in Las Vegas for 32 years.

The Raiders’ home opener came on the same day the bars were allowed to reopen, and there was a large contingent ready to celebrate both.

Robert Baladez is a lifelong Raiders fan from Las Vegas, and he’s excited to see what having an NFL team team can do for the city.

“It’s amazing what it brings to the town,” Baladez said. “The bars opened at midnight, and the city is jamming. We’re a tourist city. We cater toward tourists, and we have to keep them happy so we can keep them coming in. I love everything the stadium was built for. There’s so much growth.”

The Raiders overcame a 10-0 deficit Monday, but they dominated the rest of the game. Baladez said despite the Raiders falling behind early, he was never worried about the outcome.

“We have Chucky (coach Jon Gruden), so we have the coach and he has everything in play,” Baladez said. “He’s ready to win. They have to earn the love of Las Vegas. I’m born and raised. I’m about to be 32, and there’s nothing like rooting for a hometown team.”

— Jason Orts

8:52 p.m.

“It was the Raiders night”

As the night wound down, the majority of the about 300 person crowd outside Allegiant Stadium huddled around a TV set up on the north end of the stadium with the Al Davis Memorial Torch looking over them.

The fans cheered each big play as the Raiders inched toward breaking in their new digs, in their new city, with a win.

After the Raiders nailed a field goal late in the fourth quarter to seal the win, the group of fans sprayed beer and tossed popcorn in the air, giving everyone in a 10-foot radius a beer bath.

Kenna James, Las Vegas resident, set the TV up at the stadium, as he and his wife are season ticket holders and wanted to watch the action at the stadium no matter what.

“It’s bittersweet, but mostly sweet as the Raiders won, because we’re sitting here in the shadow of Allegiant Stadium for the first NFL game in Las Vegas history,” James said as he packed his car up. “My wife and I we’re up all night, we didn’t know what we were going to do. So, we brought the TV and for the power boosters for the TV and everybody here just had a great time.”

As the final countdown ticked down, the TV lost power, but fans quickly turned to their phones, knowing it was the Raiders’ night.

People hugged and high-fived, while a group cleaned up the empty beer bottles, boxes and other trash, to not disrespect their new $2 billion home.

“Everybody was like family,” James said. “Everything was peaceful and everybody looked after each other, it was a beautiful event.”

Although no fans were allowed inside the stadium, the fan turnout was not officially zero as the official stat sheet will reflect.

You can take the Raider Nation out of the stadium, but you can’t take them out of the game.

“They can kick us to the curb, but they can’t kick us out,” James said.

Mick Akers

7 p.m.

“Raiders all my life”

As the clock ticked down on the first half, Raiders fans at the Mandalay Bay sports book erupted in applause when the Raiders threw for a touchdown, and again when the defense intercepted a pass to regain possession.

Fans let out loud calls of “Raiiiiiders!” Some watched from chairs turned toward TV screens from closed table games.

Joe Rodriguez of Porterville, California, wasn’t planning to make the trip to Nevada, but made a last-minute decision to come to town with his wife to watch his team.

“I’ve been Raiders all my life,” he said.

Jason Reed of Olympia, Washington, is a season ticket holder for the team. He has been a fan since 1976. Despite not being able to attend Monday’s game in person, he decided to make the trip.

“I just wanted to feel the vibe of the town,” he said.

The vibe, he said, is fantastic.

Blake Apgar

6:50 p.m.

At the El Cortez

As the clock wound down on the first half, George Rivera and his sister Rose were watching the action in the sportsbook of the El Cortez casino. While they live in the San Fernando Valley, they’re season ticket holders at Allegiant Stadium. And while they couldn’t see the game there today, they still decided to drive into town to watch it locally.

“I’m a die-hard fan,” George Rivera explained. “So I wasn’t going to miss out on their first, inaugural game here.”

He said they came downtown because, “The El Cortez is like our second home. My dad, when we were small, used to bring us here.”

Heading into halftime, they were optimistic.

“I’m feeling great.” George Rivera said. “As long as we’re tied, I’m good.”

— Al Mancini

6:30 p.m.

Fun for the whole family

John and Shenika Woodward sat surrounded by the massive wall of televisions inside Dave and Buster’s at Downtown Summerlin.

Their reasons for choosing the restaurant, bar and arcade became clear once you looked in their laps: 5-year-old Zoe and 9-month old J.J. each were sporting itty-bitty Raiders gear.

Woodward

“It’s a historic moment,” Shenika said. “This is the next best thing, honestly, to be around people who are supporting the same team.”

The Woodwards can’t claim to be lifelong Raiders fans. They only became interested once the team announced its relocation to Las Vegas. Still, they knew they had to commemorate the moment.

“It’s the party atmosphere,” John said, as their reason for being at the noisy venue. “And, also, the arcade games for them.”

Christopher Lawrence

6:35 p.m.

Have football, will travel

The Saints have come marching into Henderson — their fans at least.

Clad in the gold-and-black gear of her adopted hometown, Vegas native Briana Schaefer returned to the city where she grew up to catch the first ever NFL game there.

“It’s a nice homecoming,” Schaefer said in a dark corner of the Born and Raised bar, which is hosting a capacity crowd on this night. “We came for the game before we knew that there weren’t going to be any fans (allowed in the stadium). We still decided to come and enjoy the game, the atmosphere of the new Raiders fans.”

Seated with three other Saints supporters looking like Mardi Gras incarnate, that team’s boosters have hit Vegas en masse, which will likely be a regular occurrence as fans are lured to come see their squad play in a destination market.

“There’s a lot of Saints fans in town,” Schaefer said. “Saints fans like to travel. We tend to take over cities when we go there. We did L.A. last year. We were hoping to do the same in the brand new stadium.”

The Raiders have their partisans here as well, though. Among them: Bailey Lohrman, who sat at a table next to Schaefer’s.

“I was running errands all day, and everywhere I went, people were wearing Raiders stuff,” Lohrman said of the buzz surrounding the team’s first game here. “I feel like the city was really, really excited about it.”

— Jason Bracelin

6:30 p.m.

Raiders’ first touchdown perks up crowd

When Alec Ingold caught a 3-yard touchdown pass to get the Raiders on the board, it brought the crowd at Northstar Bar and Grill in North Las Vegas to life.

Cheers and clapping could be heard, and one group of five people at a table all raised their glasses in celebration.

For Elias and Annissa Aguillon, who grew up in Las Vegas as Raiders fans, it was a special moment – albeit a bittersweet one.

“It’s hard to explain. Being the first home game and not being able to be over there because of everything going on, it’s a lot of mixed feelings,” Elias Aguillon said. “But it’s really exciting.”

He said he knew it was going to be a difficult home opener with the Raiders facing the Saints, so “let’s just hope it’s not a blowout.” Annissa Aguillon followed up with, “Yeah, that wouldn’t be good.”

A few tables away, Jacob Sanchez sat wearing a Salute to Service Dallas Cowboys jersey of his “all-time favorite,” tight end Jason Witten.

The Raiders acquired Witten in the off season after he spent 16 years with the Cowboys.

“I figured if I’m going to go into a place full of Raiders jerseys, I might as well be wearing a Witten,” Sanchez said.

— Jason Orts

6:10 pm

A different vibe in Summerlin

As Derek Carr scrambled, trailing 10-0 early in the second quarter, fans wearing Raiders gear at Wolfgang Puck’s Players Locker could be heard yelling “Get rid of it” over their salads and glasses of wine.

Mike Aguiniga, 32, rose and cheered as the Raiders scored their first touchdown inside Allegiant Stadium.

Summerlin

Aguiniga, who grew up in the Bay Area, is a season ticket holder and wanted to be able to see the game with friends.

As a Golden Knights diehard, he’s been coming to the restaurant and bar, co-owned by five of the players, weekly since it reopened.

“I love this place,” he declared. And that was before the staff started passing out the free shots of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple that come with every Raiders touchdown.

— Christopher Lawrence

5:50 p.m.

Not much to cheer for

As Saints running back Alvin Kamara slams in for the first touchdown in Allegiant Stadium history to give his team a 10-0 lead, it’s mostly quiet at Northstar Bar and Grill in North Las Vegas.

A few people are focusing on their food and drinks, a couple are looking at their phones while a few others are sitting with their chins on their firsts or with their hands behind their heads and a bewildered look on their faces.

Jason Orts

5:25 p.m.

The party begins

Excitement was building in the air as kickoff approached.

More than 100 fans, mostly in Raiders gear, gathered in front of two large screens in front of the MGM Grand’s Centrifuge cocktail lounge.

Applause broke out as Raiders head coach Jon Gruden appeared on screen. The crowd let out a roaring boo as Saints quarterback Drew Brees took the field.

Jessy Aguirre stood on the outter edge of the crowd. He wore a white jersey, a silver and black football necklace, and a black face covering with the screen print of a skull on it.

Aguirre, 31, lives in Southern California. He was a season ticket holder for eight years, but could not afford tickets in Las Vegas. He said the atmosphere around Monday’s game was cool.

“Coming in here knowing that you’re going to see a lot of visiting teams, you know, and that’s fun, but you got to kind of hold your ground and remind them whose house it is,” he said. “So, (I’ve) been having fun doing that.”

Aguirre said he was excited when he first saw the new stadium. As a former season ticket holder, he said the old stadium in Oakland was “not the prettiest sight.”

“I’m excited to see where this could go,” he said.

Blake Apgar

5:25 p.m.

Masks and game on

The skies are cloudy in Henderson, where rain showers have turned the day gray.

But the sun is shining indoors — figuratively speaking — at locals bar The Gin Mill, where a crowd has gathered to watch the Raiders and the wetness outdoors is confined here to the beads of condensation dripping down frosty beer mugs.

“It’s huge,” server Stephanie Lehman, clad in a team shirt and sparkling silver face mask, said of the Raiders debut. “I’ve been a (Pittsburgh) Steelers fan for years, so everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you’re a Raiders fan now?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, because I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve been waiting for this forever.”

She expects the Raiders to be good for business, beginning today.

“We have a lot of people who are their way here right now,” Lehman said. “We’re going to have to figure out how to fit them all in.”

She isn’t alone in her enthusiasm.

“It’s extremely exciting, eclectic, it’s awesome,” said Dave Lusk of the Raiders’ debut.

“It’s really great,” he adds, noting that he wished the stadium was open as well. “At least we’re half-way there.”

Jason Bracelin

5:23 p.m.

Huddling around the TV

Before the action kicked off inside Allegiant Stadium, a group of die hard fans weren’t going to let the no-fans-inside-the-stadium measure keep them from watching the game on site.

A group of about 30 fans huddled around a 20-inch television on the north end of Allegiant Stadium to watch the “Monday Night Football” game.

Chants of “defense, defense” erupted when the Raiders began the game on defense, with cheers and jeers taking place depending on the play.

Mick Akers

5:21 p.m.

Raiders fans filing in

As the minutes count down to the first-ever Raiders home game in Las Vegas, Raiders fans are making their presence felt at Northstar Bar and Grill in North Las Vegas.

Northstar doesn’t label itself a Raiders bar, but owner Jimmy Tsunis has embraced having them here with an inflatable Raiders player on the patio and merchandise giveaway after the third quarter of each Raiders game that include T-shirts, pint glasses and a flag.

“We love Las Vegas, and we’re very happy with the investment they’ve made,” Tsunis said. “Of course, we want to support any organization that comes in here and spends a billion dollars.”

About 15 people wearing Raiders merchandise, including a few wearing jerseys that range from Derek Carr to Charles Woodson to Tim Brown, have filed into Northstar and an audible “woo” was heard when the Monday Night Football them began to play and Allegiant Stadium was shown on the TVs.

Jason Orts

5:19 p.m.

Thunderbirds stage flyover

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds made their presence known with a flyover above Allegiant Stadium before the Las Vegas Raiders’ first home game.

The Thunderbirds, based at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, arrived as the national anthem neared its conclusion.

Tony Garcia

5:10

Saints fans pack Binion’s bar

As kickoff time draw near, the Whiskey Liquor Up Saloon on the second floor of Binion’s is packed with Saints fan. Raiders t-shirts are scarce in the sea of black and gold. And every few minutes the room erupts into some iteration of the Big East’s signature “Who Dat” chant.

— Al Mancini

5 p.m.

Raiders fans are used to traveling

Rosemary Gonzales and a group of friends and family members flew in from San Jose on Saturday because, even though they couldn’t get inside Allegiant Stadium, they wanted to watch the game on TV near the field.

They got half their wish.

Gonzales, 55, said she was searching online for sports bars and found PKWY Tavern, 9820 W. Flamingo Road.

“I saw ‘Flamingo,’ so I thought, you know, it was close to the Strip.”

For the uninitiated, it’s at the intersection of Flamingo and the 215.

Rocking a glittery Oakland Raiders tank top, Gonzales admits the transition hasn’t been easy.

Gonzales

“It’s hard for us,” she says. “I can’t say ‘Vegas’ yet.”

She’s been through this before, though. She and her family used to make the drive to Los Angeles for games when the team was based there.

Does she think she’ll ever trade in her Oakland gear for something backing the Las Vegas Raiders?

“I never said ‘L.A.,’” she says, “so I don’t know.”

Christopher Lawrence

4:38 p.m.

“We’re Raider fans. We show up no matter what.”

Just after 4 p.m., a group of people stood in line for Public House sports bar at the Luxor.

Among them was Jesse Carbajal, 29, who made the trip to Las Vegas from Los Angeles to cheer on the Raiders.

Carbajal said he booked his opening game trip when the schedule came out. He said he was about to buy tickets to the game before everything shut down.

Carbajal already had a room reserved, so he decided to make a weekend of it. The pandemic was not enough to deter him from cheering on his team.

“We’re Raider fans,” he said. “We show up no matter what.”

Carbajal said considering the team’s tradition in Oakland, seeing the Raiders in Las Vegas is “bittersweet.”

“But other than that, like I said, we can make a weekend out of it, have fun out here,” he said. “It’s just a different experience.”

— Blake Apgar

4:30

Fremont Street relatively quiet

The Fremont Street Experience’s Viva Vision canopy was illuminated with a message of “Welcome Raiders.” Under it, a handful of fans in Raiders jerseys were spotted among the crowd.

FSE

Inside The D Casino, the second floor sports book was relatively quiet, with seats still available at the bar and a handful of tables open, as the pre-game show played alongside baseball and hockey on the TVs. A few fans decked out in Raiders gear could be seen wandering up to the counter to place bets.

— Al Mancini

4:30 p.m.

Fans plan ahead

The early Raiders fan gets the worm — or something like that.

An hour before kickoff, fans were starting to trickle into PKWY Tavern, 9820 W. Flamingo Road.

It wasn’t for a lack of interest.

The last of the 42 socially distant tables within sight of the many televisions was reserved Sunday, according to Jaimesen Mapes, director of marketing. Fans started making reservations Thursday.

A few seats at the bar and four tables at the rear of the patio were left open for walk-ins. Two of those four, in direct sunlight, were filled by 4:30.

— Christopher Lawrence

4:20 p.m.

Fan follows through on Las Vegas trip

A small group of fans had gathered on the fourth floor of the Mandalay Bay parking garage by 3:30 p.m.

In the casino below, many people wore Raiders apparel.

As of 3:45 p.m., the sportsbook at Mandalay Bay had a mellow vibe.

Norma Martinez, 50, was looking for her group of friends from outside the sportsbook. Martinez, from San Antonio, Texas, said she had tickets to the home opener before the pandemic put an end to public attendance. She still made the trip.

The 25-year Raiders fan said she was excited for the home opener.

“But, you know, have to watch it on a big screen versus live,” she said.

— Blake Apgar

4:11 p.m.

Saints’ gold and black mixes with silver and black outside stadium

A solid contingent of New Orleans Saints fans dressed in their “gold and black” is mixed in with the Raider Nation’s silver and black outside of Allegiant Stadium on Monday.

The opposing fans are keeping it rather cordial, with the occasional chant of “Raiders” followed by “Who Dat” ringing out every so often.

Fans who can’t find parking on the roadside pass by, honking their horns and yelling out to show their support of the fans congregating around the 65,000-seat stadium.

One Raiders super fan, “HellRaider,” whose costume is based off the 1980s horror movie series “Hellraiser,” posed for picture with a Metro police officer acting like he was getting arrested.

The super fan, whose real name is Ronnie Carlos Abarca, takes a similar picture at all stadiums he visits.

— Mick Akers

4:07 p.m.

Kicking things off before kick off

If these walls could talk, they’d cheer.

Or maybe heckle the visiting team until throats are as raw as the opposition’s feelings.

It’s a little more than an hour before kickoff at Henderson pub the Rush Hour Tavern, which could double as a sports memorabilia shop, appointed with framed, autographed jerseys that include Michael Jordan to Marshall Faulk to Ryan Grant.

There are no Raiders jerseys here — yet — though that hasn’t dimmed the anticipation for tonight’s game any, as half-a-dozen patrons eye the constellation of TVs above the bar, waiting for the home team to take their home field for the first time.

“Man, I’m ready,” says bartender Joe H. “I was born and raised out here, so I love to see us have a football team.”

There is one caveat: he’s wearing a Ronnie Lott, San Francisco 49ers jersey. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to like the Raiders to like having them here.

— Jason Bracelin

3:05 p.m.

First tailgater joins the fun outside Allegiant Stadium

Lifelong Raiders fan Anthony Silva, who staged the first tailgate party in Allegiant Stadium history after its substantial completion, returned Monday to join in the fun before the Raiders take the field.

Set up in a parking lot across Hacienda Avenue, Silva, a season ticket holder, was part of a growing number of fans prepping for the Raiders first game as Las Vegas’ NFL franchise.

“We’re pumped, wish we could be inside, we’re meeting a lot of good people, good friends and continuing this rivalry,” Silva said.

After Raiders President Marc Badain caught wind of Silva and his wife’s tailgate party, he gave him a call to let him know the franchise appreciated his support.

“If anything the president of the Las Vegas Raiders said hello, how you doing and we appreciate our fans,” Silva said.

Mick Akers

2:15 p.m.

Hundreds gather at stadium

After about four years of talk about the Raiders relocating to Las Vegas, the team will finally take the field Monday for a game against the New Orleans Saints at the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium.

Fans from all over the region are converging on Las Vegas to celebrate the Silver and Black’s new hometown while they kick off their tenure as Las Vegas’ team.

Raider nation 1

The Raiders “Monday Night Football” matchup with the Saints is closed to fans, but that isn’t stopping Raider Nation from showing up at Allegiant Stadium, as hundreds of fans already began to gather outside the stadium Monday afternoon.

Area bars and sports books also are expected to be hot spots for fans to ring in the NFL era in southern Nevada.

Follow along with the Las Vegas Review-Journal as a team of reporters will be out on the town checking in with the Raider Nation.

Mick Akers

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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