LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis called his new home the Death Star in 2020 — and the name stuck.
Allegiant Stadium, with its black facade, in fact resembles the ominous space station from the “Star Wars” movie franchise that was capable of destroying planets.
The futuristic stadium takes center stage on Feb. 11 when the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers meet in the first-ever Super Bowl in Las Vegas.
And like the unique city that surrounds it, the stadium has some features that set it apart from others around the NFL. Among the most notable is the playing surface.
Because the Raiders insist on playing on grass, even in a dome, the field spends most of the time outside in sunlight and is rolled in on a tray for games. Last year’s Super Bowl host, the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium, uses a similar transfer system.
The NFL takes over management of the field when it comes to the Super Bowl, and the playing surface is monitored closely. No one wants a repeat of what happened last year in Glendale. Players slipped on that grass in the Super Bowl, which the Chiefs won 38-35 over the Philadelphia Eagles.
“This surface has been nurtured from the sod farm all the way to the Super Bowl,” said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president for communications. “Its maintenance is measured by a series of tools and metrics. … Our field manager expert has been on top of this for many weeks and is on site frequently and will be throughout the next couple of weeks in anticipation of the game.”
Former longtime NFL groundskeeper George Toma, known as the “Sodfather,” was critical of how the field was maintained last year, but expressed confidence in new field director Nick Pappas.
“You’ll see at Las Vegas now, they’ll have the best playing field ever,” Toma said.
Toma, who turned 95 on Friday, said he wasn’t in the best of health.
“Last year, I told my ground crew, ‘I doubt I’ll be here with you next year. If I’m in heaven, I’ll be looking down and seeing what a beautiful field you have or I’ll be in hell looking up and seeing what type of roots system you have,'” Toma said.
Other notable stadium features include:
—Huge lanai doors on the north end facing Interstate 15 and the Strip. Those doors, which are 80 by 215 feet, can be opened to create more of an outdoor element, but have remained closed during Raiders games even late in the season when temperatures cool.
—The Al Davis Memorial Torch is 92 feet high and surrounded by a circular bar. It’s an electronic torch “lit” before every Raiders home game. Former heavyweight champion and current Henderson resident Mike Tyson and recording artist and actor Ice Cube were among those who turned on the torch this season. The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces also had the honors after winning their leagues’ championships.
The tradition traces back to 2011 when John Madden lit an actual torch when the team was based in Oakland, California. Another torch remains lit outside the Raiders headquarters in Henderson, Nevada.
—In front of the torch, in an area that overlooks the end zone seats, the Raiders’ 19-person band performs before games and plays in timeouts throughout. Sometimes other performers such as Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons join the band at halftime.
—Every NFL stadium has VIP seating, but Allegiant has some of its most exclusive seating actually located on the field just beyond the north end zone. There are 29 booths, each sitting up to 15 people. Fans who occupy those booths receive wait service, access to private bars and a special entrance.