Now standing as one of the top college football facilities in all the West is UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium, which celebrated its 32nd birthday in 2003 with the addition of a new, state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface.
After undergoing a complete facelift and renovation during 1999, the "New" Sam Boyd Stadium was part of a major venue overhaul that included the school's Thomas & Mack Center and the new Cox Pavilion on campus.
The transformation, made possible in part by a grant from the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, allowed SBS to expand to its present capacity of 36,800 (with the ability to seat more than 40,000 when called for).
Located approximately seven miles from both the UNLV campus and McCarran International Airport, Sam Boyd Stadium successfully combines the excitement of a college football stadium and the versatility of an entertainment arena. The Rebel football team has posted a 119-81-3 record in 32 seasons playing there for a winning percentage of .584.
SBS marked its 25th anniversary in 1996 by hosting the state's then-largest-ever sporting crowd on Sept. 14 when 41,091 fans saw UNLV take on Wisconsin. That total was surpassed just three months later when 41,238 saw BYU get past Wyoming in the first WAC Championship game, which was televised nationally by ABC. That record was re-written once more when 42,075 fans saw the Badgers return to face the Rebels on Aug. 31, 2002, in a game shown nationally by ESPN2.
The stadium has hosted some of the greatest talents in sports and show business. Future NFL quarterbacks Randall Cunningham, Jim McMahon, Drew Bledsoe, Andre Ware and Akili Smith are among those who have played at Sam Boyd Stadium along with events involving athletes such as soccer legend Pele and motor sports stars. Additionally, the stadium has hosted world-class concerts by such musical acts as the Dave Matthews Band, the Eagles, U2, Paul McCartney, Wayne Newton, the George Strait Festival and the once-annual summer appearances by the Grateful Dead.
A mecca for football played on all levels, the stadium is currently site of the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas in December as well as having served as home to three Western Athletic Conference championship games from 1996-98. The facility has also twice served as host to professional foot ball as the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL made it their home in 2001 as did the Las Vegas Posse, a Canadian Football League franchise that played one season in 1994. SBS also hosts high school games and has been site of the state's prep championship game.
The venue has also recently hosted two other college football events: the Las Vegas Classic, which annually features two teams from historically black universities, and the Las Vegas All-American Classic postseason all-star game. Originally named Las Vegas Stadium when it was built in 1971 at a cost of $3.5 million, the facility was re-named the Las Vegas Silver Bowl in 1978 and then known as the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl in honor of local gaming pioneer Sam Boyd beginning in 1984. Its name was officially shortened to Sam Boyd Stadium in April 1994. The first event held in the then-15,000-seat stadium was a UNLV football game against Weber State on Oct. 23, 1971, won by the visiting Wildcats, 30-17. Official dedication ceremonies, however, took place the next season on Sept. 9, 1972, at halftime of a 35-28 loss to Western Illinois before 8,800 fans.
SBS, which has always retained its horseshoe shape, underwent an expansion to 32,000 seats in 1978 and again enjoyed improvements in 1994. The popular Rebel Experience area outside the stadium opened in 1997.
One of the highlights of the latest renovation was the replacement of the so-called "Magic Carpet" retractable artificial turf that had been in place since 1985. Originally fitted with traditional AstroTurf, Sam Boyd was the first stadium in the world to install a Monsanto Corp. outdoor retractable turf, which helped give the facility its multi-purpose capability. The surface, which simply rolled up into cylinders in less than an hour, was installed in at a cost of $1.2 million through a grant by the Sam Boyd family and an appropriation subsidy from the LVCVA.
Natural grass replaced the artificial turf from 1999-2002 before a synthetic surface, made by TurfTech, was installed in time for the 2003 season.
Directions to Sam Boyd Stadium
Located on Russell Road in Henderson, Nevada. (15 minutes East of Las Vegas)
From Las Vegas Airport to Sam Boyd Stadium, head North out of airport on Swenson Avenue approximately a half-mile.
Take a right on to Tropicana Avenue (heading East) and proceed 4-5 miles.
Take a right on to the Boulder Highway then a left on to Russell Road.
Russell Road leads directly into Sam Boyd Stadium.
From I-15 South, exit East on Tropicana Avenue, take Tropicana past Boulder Highway and Sam Boyd Stadium will be on left.
From I-95 South, exit on to Russell Road, head East and drive directly into Sam Boyd Stadium.
From The Las Vegas Strip, head East on Tropicana Avenue (appox. six miles), which leads to Sam Boyd Stadium.