In 2007, while he was a student at Syracuse University, Christopher Sotiropulos took an internship with the ticket department at the Oakland Raiders. Now, 16 years later, the Raiders have moved to Las Vegas and Sotiropulos has ascended to become the team’s vice president of stadium operations, in which role he is helping the franchise prepare to host the 2024 Super Bowl.
Each week, athletes around the league leave it all on the line at practice and try to earn their way into their team’s starting lineup. Similarly, Sotiropulos lets his work speak for itself, and his performance in the Raiders’ big moments has earned him the trust of a high-performing front office staff. After asking Sotiropulos back as an intern twice, leaders created an entry-level marketing position for him. He then worked his way into guest services and stadium operations. In 2015, when the Raiders started thinking about leaving Oakland, California, he was invited to participate in planning meetings and brainstorming sessions.
What followed was a high-stakes and public drama as the Raiders hunted for a new host city. It was no secret the organization was in need of a new stadium that would allow the team to compete with many of the new, modern stadiums in the NFL. The Raiders shared the Oakland Coliseum with the Athletics, played home games in Los Angeles for part of the 1980s and 90s, returned to Oakland, and once tried to move to Sacramento.
In 2013, the team’s lease at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum ended, bringing the team freedom to relocate once more. It thought about San Francisco, or maybe San Antonio, Texas. When those opinions evaporated, the Raiders tried to make a deal to build its own stadium in Oakland before ultimately petitioning the NFL to move once more to Los Angeles. The league approved a deal to bring the St. Louis Rams to Hollywood instead.
After the LA relocation was denied, the Raiders went back to the drawing board. Las Vegas, once seen as an underdog for professional sports, would soon provide the team with the home it had desperately searched for.
Sotiropulos and his colleagues were finally going to get to build a new home for the Raider Nation, and they wanted to exceed their rabid fandom’s expectations. “Our first goal was to build the best football stadium in the country, but we soon realized we could do even more,” he says. Why stop at football? If the stadium was going to be in the city often referred to as the entertainment capital of the world, it should also host concerts, conventions, and other live events. The team quickly adjusted its plan to create a modern destination venue to host various functions year-round.
The plan required creativity, and Sotiropulos and company would also have to stick to an aggressive timeline. The Raiders had only extended its lease in Oakland through 2019 and needed the new stadium ready for the 2020 season. “Others in our position spend two years obsessing over every detail, but we didn’t have that luxury,” Sotiropulos explains. With $1.9 billion of funding in place, workers broke ground on the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium on November 13, 2017.
A design-build plan made it all possible, and the Raiders convinced two renowned building companies—Mortenson and McCarthy—to join forces on the special project. Crews built a concrete plant on-site, prefabricated risers for seats, used 3-D imagery, sequenced crews, and implemented other creative methods to increase speed. It took 12,000 skilled workers laboring around the clock for 31 months to erect the innovative domed structure, which is wrapped by a crystalline curtain wall that gives unforgettable views of the famed Vegas Strip.
There are many challenges associated with building an NFL stadium in the Mojave Desert, where temperatures top 110 degrees. “For one thing, achieving the vision of a natural grass playing surface, in an indoor stadium, was problematic,” Sotiropulos notes. Project managers created a massive mobile field tray that slides into place on game day: 72 motors move the 19 million pounds of natural grass, soil, steel, and concrete.
The natural grass tray is Allegiant Stadium’s secret weapon. “Our playing surface is the lifeblood of our building, and being able to convert it efficiently gives us the versatility to host other events,” Sotiropulos says. When football games are over, operations teams guided by ASM Global spring into action, remove the field tray, retract seating sections, and reset the stadium by rolling out artificial turf for college football games or installing bare flooring for concerts and private events.
Allegiant Stadium is about more than football. “We want to maximize the utility of our building,” Sotiropulos says. Each year, in addition to home preseason and regular season games, the venue hosts around 40 ticketed events, numerous private events, and countless tours.
And now, Allegiant is preparing to host its biggest game yet—Super Bowl LVIII, which will take place in February 2024. Sotiropulos says it will be like nothing his crews have ever tackled. “The Super Bowl is not just a football game; it’s an event like no other,” he says. Entertainers, celebrities, politicians, VIPs, and fans will all meet at 3333 Al Davis Way. They’ll be expecting good football, great music, flashy pyrotechnics, and a fun-filled night. The whole world will be watching, and Sotiropulos can’t wait to see Allegiant Stadium shine bright.