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May 24, 2017

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Fans celebrate Raiders move under iconic Las Vegas welcome sign

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Steve Marcus

Louis DeSalvio, Laborers Union, Local 872, training director celebrates near the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign as he reads a tweet from Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak announcing that NFL owners in Phoenix voted to approve a Raiders move to Las Vegas Monday, March 27, 2017.

Updated Monday, March 27, 2017 | 2:49 p.m.

Raiders Fans Celebrate By Welcome to Las Vegas Sign

Laborers Union members, Local 872, cheer for a television camera by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign after NFL owners in Phoenix voted to approve a Raiders move to Las Vegas Monday, March 27, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Wearing a Raiders jersey and cap, Caleb Baker of Las Vegas reflected today on the reality of soon having his favorite NFL team playing in his hometown.

“I’ve always wanted to go to a game,” Baker said as he stood in front of Las Vegas welcome sign minutes after NFL owners approved moving the team here. “Thankfully, now it’ll be a lot easier.”

Baker, an 18-year-old graduate of Legacy High School, was among about 50 Raiders fans who celebrated the news today in front of the iconic sign. They cheered the announcement and waved signs as passing motorists honked their horns.

Jeff Whitaker of Ithaca, Mich., travels across the country to support the team.

Whitaker, a season-ticket holder, attended the Raiders’ most recent appearance in the Super Bowl in 2003 and followed the team to Mexico City for a game last season. He said he’s been to hundreds of Raiders games and plans to continue buying season tickets once the team moves to Las Vegas.

“They need a new stadium, and fans want it too,” Whitaker said. “This helps the franchise keep up with the times.”

Rachel and David Montgomery of Logan, Ohio, were at the welcome sign to renew their wedding vows after 10 years of marriage. But they soon found themselves shouting and waving at TV cameras while holding “Welcome to Las Vegas, Raiders” signs.

Though they are Cleveland Browns fans, the couple said they joined in the celebration as part of their first “Las Vegas experience.”

“It’s making history, so we’d like to be a part of it,” Rachel Montgomery said.

Las Vegas resident Sue Woods said the Raiders will provide another entertainment option for locals and tourists.

“It’s about time we had something like this here,” she said. “Just more proof that Las Vegas is not just about casinos and gambling.”

Robert Reyes of Las Vegas said he sympathized with fans in Oakland, but dismissed the idea that they wouldn’t continue to support the team in Las Vegas.

“Raider fans are a family. They’ll come around in no time,” he said.

When it came down to buying a new car or season tickets to watch the Raiders play in Las Vegas, the choice wasn’t even close for Ben Cassesse.

The new wheels will have to wait.

“It’s a dream come true,” Cassesse said today after NFL owners approved the team’s move to Las Vegas from Oakland.

Cassesse, who took the day off work to celebrate, was at ground zero for local Raiders fans — Legends Sports Bar and Grill on Boulder Highway, home to the team’s Las Vegas booster club.

John Baietti, Big John as he’s affectionately known at the bar, has been a Raiders fan since 1960 when the franchise started. He described the news as “Christmas times a thousand.”

“We’re a family,” Baietti said of fellow members of the so-called Raider Nation. “We’re not fair-weather fans.”

Cody Wallace, a security guard, has been a Raiders fan since 1975. He hopes his job helps him see some Raiders games in Las Vegas.

“My goal is to work at the stadium when they break ground and after — get paid to watch my team,” Wallace said.

Members of the local Raiders booster club are meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Las Vegas welcome sign and making their way to downtown to celebrate. Follow the club’s Instagram @raidersboosterclub_LVC for more information.

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