The mere thought of his beloved Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas, and the possibility of the talented young squad (12-4 this past season) soon participating in a Super Bowl right here, in RaiderDome—in his own backyard—flummoxes Steve Stallworth. That’s why the affable 52-year-old general manager of the South Point Arena and former UNLV quarterback has been so mum about all the chatter regarding the NFL franchise becoming the Las Vegas Raiders. “Haven’t wanted to jinx anything,” he conceded. “It’s crazy. I’m absolutely trying not to make it a big deal.”
Perhaps Stallworth should have remained mum. After months of green lights and good news, the potential $1.9 billion stadium deal smacked into a roadblock in the final days of January, when casino mogul Sheldon Adelson withdrew from the project. He cited discontent with Raiders owner Mark Davis. Financier Goldman Sachs pulled out, too. The 32 NFL owners have been slated to vote on the relocation of the team in March, when at least 24 ayes will be required for approval.
The pulse of a Las Vegas RaiderDome might seem faint, but Stallworth also knows about fourth-quarter comebacks. He first became enamored with the Raiders in the early 1970s, when an excursion from Yuma, Arizona, to the central valley of California resulted in a chance meeting with electric Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica, who regaled the young Stallworth with football tales. At UNLV, Stallworth was just as starstruck with David Humm, who spent most of his 10-year quarterback career with the Raiders and served as a radio analyst for Rebel games.
In his Rancho Bel Air home, Stallworth treasures a silver-and-black golf cart replete with the team’s pirate logos; he still hopes to bop around RaiderDome parking lots in the vehicle. He said of the previous months of negotiations that included state legislature approval of a $750 million hotel room tax to help build the stadium, “I’m just thrilled that city leaders recognized the opportunity and pursued it with a passion.”
Many share his passion. A 2004 Sports Illustrated poll pegged the Raiders as Nevada’s favorite NFL team—tied, at 12 percent, with the San Francisco 49ers. Humm, 64, just completed his 22nd season broadcasting a Raiders radio show out of his Las Vegas home and believed late maverick team owner Al Davis has been beaming down on Southern Nevada from the heavens.
Now, Stallworth, Humm and the Raiders loyalists in Las Vegas have to sit back and see—and hope that the wait is worth it.