With the Raiders, a team rising from more than a decade on the doormat to relevance, in every bit of likelihood moving to Las Vegas (6 hours away), are football fans in the Beehive State going to gravitate to them?
With no NFL team in the state of Utah, sports fans tend to focus the most heavily on the Utah Jazz, University of Utah and BYU Cougars.
Undoubtedly though, the NFL is still wildly popular, and fans, without an immediate geographic tie, are more free to adopt their own team to root for. That can be really fun as you can meet fans of virtually every NFL team in Utah, though the majority gravitate toward the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle Seahawks. Secondarily, perhaps, you’ll find fans of the Oakland Raiders and San D–*ahem* Los Angeles Chargers.
Utahns are in the Broncos TV market, but still are about an 8-hour drive from Northern Utah to Denver. We’re 11 hours from San Francisco, and nearly 13 from Seattle (Google Maps estimates).
But with the Raiders, a team rising from more than a decade on the doormat to relevance, in every bit of likelihood moving to Las Vegas (6 hours away), are football fans in the Beehive State going to gravitate to them?
Las Vegas is somewhat a key vacation destination. Las Vegas Bowls have always been packed by Utah and BYU fans alike. And though Denver is only two hours farther, Vegas feels closer, perhaps because of a more direct route through flat and sparsely-populated regions of Utah instead of a handful of mountain passes to Colorado. Las Vegas is also a much cheaper place to stay for more luxurious hotels, and is very tourist-friendly.
Another angle is that the LV Raiders could become an adopted “second favorite” team for Utahns. Many NFL fans are already entrenched in their own football tradition with their childhood team. Maybe fans will travel annually or biennially to see their team play against the Raiders in Las Vegas. Maybe fans will travel to the desert just to see any NFL game. Time will tell.
Sean O’Connell and Brian Swinney discussed the possibility on Thursday’s O’Connell & Swinney.
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