New UNLV football stadium gives program hope

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez works with his players as the football team conducts their first spring practice of the year on Wednesday, March 1, 2017.

When NFL owners voted to relocate the Raiders to Las Vegas on Monday morning, it was almost as if the city gained two new football teams. That’s how important the Raiders’ new stadium will be to the future of UNLV football, according to head coach Tony Sanchez.

The stadium is expected to be open in time for the 2020 season, with the Raiders and Rebels both calling it home.

“What it’s going to do for this program is huge,” Sanchez said. “I’m excited for the city of Las Vegas.”

It’s the biggest domino to fall so far in Sanchez’s vision for rebuilding the UNLV program. The school is breaking ground soon on a new on-campus football practice facility, and administrators (including Sanchez) have been vocal about wanting to join a Power 5 conference as soon as possible.

A new stadium shared with an NFL team plays into Sanchez’s plan for making UNLV a destination for talented players.

“Playing in a world-class facility is another thing that allows us to recruit at a high level,” Sanchez said. “With that and the practice facility, the energy around the program right now, it has a chance to take it to a whole new level — a level a lot of people thought UNLV football could never reach.”

Sanchez was publicly vocal about supporting the deal to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas, and the Rebels’ players have been following the stadium news closely as well. Freshman quarterback Armani Rogers, the highest-profile recruit to join the program during Sanchez’s tenure, is completely on board with the Raiders, the new stadium and Sanchez’s plan to make it all work for UNLV.

“It’s a big step for Las Vegas,” Rogers said. “Having an NFL team like the Raiders here and playing in the stadium with them, it’s going to help our recruiting and it’s going to be a great thing for our team in the long run. We’re all looking forward to it.”

Rogers will be a senior in 2020 and should still be on the team when the Rebels play their inaugural season at the new stadium. Though it’s still three years away, Rogers is already excited thinking about it.

“A new stadium, being the first ones to actually step on the football field and go out there and light it up, it’s going to be unreal.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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