There is perhaps nothing more emblematic of pure gluttony than a buffet. And what better place to bask in all of that gluttony than the city of sin?
Shockingly enough, however, I hadn’t gotten my fat fixings of food until the third day of my weekend trip to Las Vegas. Given that more than 80% of the city’s buffets were closed, and the remaining ones open were well past my budget, my options were slim –– that is, until I arrived at Allegiant Stadium.
My press box experience at the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl can be best described in one word: extravagant.
Though I stayed overnight at a crude castle-themed hotel, the “Excalibur,” Allegiant Stadium was quite the opposite venue. With a maximum capacity of a whopping 65,000 people, the home of the Raiders looked every part a new NFL stadium worth $1.97 billion. Spotless panels of tinted glass reflected the backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip surrounding the 62-acre dome. From the bright lights lining rows of seats to a translucent ceiling and 92-foot “Al Davis Memorial Torch,” every square inch seemed to contribute to the stadium’s modern, technologically-advanced style.
Once I entered the venue after receiving my media credentials –– a sleek plastic card with my name, organization and photo –– from a tent beside the main gates, I was immediately taken aback by the sheer spectacle before me. Everywhere you looked there was something to see –– Raider silver and black logos sprinkled the interior, fans repping every kind of NFL jersey moseyed around and high-definition video screens accompanied each column holding up the giant structure. Remarkably, even the pipes and wires seamlessly fit the theming, as different variations of gray proved to be the predominant color palette.
The signage to the press box wasn’t all that clear, but the attendants at the stadium were happy to help. Tucked on the outer edge of the stadium was an exclusive media elevator, which took me up to floor 400 in a flash. The ride was no more than a minute, yet a sizable TV screen was embedded into the wall to provide entertainment. Upon exiting, another attendant in front of the press box entrance scanned my credentials.
And just like that, I was in.
To help navigate the box, I took a peek at the list posted on a wall of media organizations and their respective seats. In the heap of 19 NFL teams, ESPN.com and Chicago Sun-Times –– to name a few –– I found “The Daily Californian.” Our spot? Seats 23 and 24 –– right along the NFC’s 40-yard line and directly next to the PA announcer whose baritone voice echoed throughout the air.
With an hour left before the coin toss, the press box was already bustling. Besides NFL representatives sporting their respective team merchandise, the dress code was business casual. And yet, for how professional everything was, I still felt like a kid in a candy shop.
Centered in the middle of the box was a communal dining room with a breakfast buffet. The NFL provided the whole nine yards: eggs, potatoes, toast, bacon and sausage. On one side was a refrigerator of beverages and a soda machine; on the other side was a beautiful display of Las Vegas Pro Bowl-themed pastries, cookies and donuts. Not to mention, the all-you-can-eat breakfast was just round one –– at about halftime, lunch in the form of sandwiches, pretzels and chips lay on the tables for the taking.
After partaking in my fair share of food, I waddled to my seat. Allegiant Stadium’s press box is divvied up into three main sections: two open-air, multi-layered rows of desks adjacent to the opposing endzones and an enclosed area of private rooms nestled in the middle next to the dining hall. My desk was placed on the “south” side, just above the social media managers of the Miami Dolphins and beside representatives for Bucs Report and Fox Deportes.
As soon as the players took to the field, I was enthralled. Justin Tucker launched 75-yard practice kicks, Travis Kelce threw short passes like he was a quarterback and Maxx Crosby ran around the field hyping the home crowd up nearly every second he could.
Cheers (and boos) from fans for all of the players also brought an added layer of excitement. With light displays and shows captivating the crowd between every break, namely the performance of the Jabbawockeez, and celebrity sightings on the big screen, the whole event was a sensory overload.
By the end of it all, I had a chance to interview Justin Herbert –– the offensive MVP of the game. As a Los Angeles local, I was curious about his thoughts on the environment compared to back home in Southern California.
“Our home crowd of LA has always done a great job of showing up and showing their support,” Herbert said. “We felt their presence this entirety here. To have them show up and give their support, that meant the world to us.”
As simple as it seems, his response spoke volumes. The NFL Pro Bowl is a publicity event for some of the top football players in the world to take a well-deserved break. With many opportunities for autographs and “meet and greets,” it’s also largely focused on athlete-fan interaction.
In other words, it’s not meant to be a real game –– it’s meant to be a fun celebration of opulence and extravagance. Though the lack of competition is another story in and of itself, watching the NFL’s top players play football at any capacity was a pipe dream. And what better way to have basked in all of that glory than the city of sin?