Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 | 2 a.m.
NFL teams are notoriously secretive, and the Raiders haven’t typically done much to refute the reputation. That could be changing when the team moves to Las Vegas, starting with the 2020 season. The Raiders recently broke ground on their 323,000-square-foot Henderson headquarters and practice facility off St. Rose Parkway on Executive Airport Drive, and some of the construction plans were made with fans in mind.
Although Raiders President Marc Badain said the team was still figuring out how often the facility would be open to the public, it will have the capacity for more than just players and employees when it’s completed next spring.
“We’ve built the indoor practice facility wide enough that we can bring fans in to watch practice,” Badain said at the groundbreaking event. “The three outdoor fields will have a perimeter where we can bring some stands in so people can come in and watch practice.”
Training camp is when NFL fans are most commonly invited to practice, but the Raiders have been among the least accessible teams. In 2014, they were the only team in the league without a single open practice during their preseason sessions in Napa, California, according to a study of every NFL team’s access by Syracuse.com. Last year, in their first season with Jon Gruden back as coach, the Raiders held a “fan day” practice and also allowed season-ticket holders at a number of practices.
The Raiders are unlikely to hold most of their training camp in Las Vegas given the extreme July and August heat—team officials have reportedly visited potential sites in Reno—so it could be the final practices before the regular season that are made publicly available.
Although there’s much to be determined for fans, Badain issued an open invitation to “Raiders’ alumni” as construction began on the facility, which has a price tag of $75 million for its first phase alone. “You’re always welcome wherever we are, and now we have a lot more room for you,” Badain said, addressing former Raiders. “You’re our family, and this is your new home.”
Approximately 15 retired players attended the groundbreaking, including multiple-time Super Bowl champions Jim Plunkett and Cliff Branch. Badain’s welcome sounded particularly enticing to former linebacker Jerry Robinson, who played for the Raiders from 1985 to 1991 and briefly settled in Las Vegas in the 1990s after a 13-year NFL career. “I’m excited to come and enjoy this,” the 62-year-old Robinson said. “Even though I live in California right now, who knows, a brother might be moving back here.”
Robinson recalled watching games at a number of local sports bars catering to different fan bases when he was a resident and noticing how starved the area was for football. He was always impressed by the passion for sports throughout the Valley. “I said to myself, ‘What a great sports city,’ ” Robinson recalled. “I liked that. It was too bad there weren’t any [major] professional sports here, but now you’ve got two of them, and there’s probably going to be a couple more of them coming in.”
The Raiders have supported the NHL’s Golden Knights; owner Mark Davis has been spotted multiple times in glass seats for big games at T-Mobile Arena, and the two teams have combined for a few community initiatives. Badain noted that the Raiders had “really done their homework” for their headquarters, which surely included noticing locals’ enthusiasm for being welcome at the Golden Knights’ facility.
Hockey practices at City National Arena often draw overflow crowds, with the popularity having forced the Golden Knights to cap attendance during last year’s run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Raiders won’t offer daily fan accessibility like the Golden Knights, but they won’t be secluded either.
Badain said he ultimately envisioned the Raiders’ headquarters looking like the Dallas Cowboys’ compound in Frisco, Texas, with shopping, dining and lodging in an entertainment district. Henderson city officials say an adjoining urban center has already been greenlighted for development.
The Raiders want fans around. “It’s here where the organization will become ingrained in the local community,” Badain promised. “Where we’ll invest, where we’ll spend our time, our money, our resources. Where our employees will live and raise their families, go to school, start businesses and attract other business—a home for our players, coaches, staff, alumni, Raiderettes, fans, business partners and the entire Henderson community.”
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.