A special week

This is shaping up to be one of those weeks we’ll be talking about for years to come.

Wednesday, we get to celebrate Circa in all its cool old Vegas glory. It wasn’t that long ago it was a big hole in the ground on Main and Fremont Streets. 

Saturday, we celebrate a special Nevada Day in another 2020 edifice — Allegiant Stadium — as UNLV plays its first home football game of what has already been the weirdest season in memory.

Not only will it be first-year coach Marcus Arroyo’s home debut, it will be the first time spectators will be able to come inside and watch an event in the $2 billion stadium. Granted, there won’t be many fans after the university cut a deal with the Clark County Health Department, but I guess a couple thousand fans is better than what the Raiders are getting, which is zero.

It’s hard to imagine we’re witnessing progress in a year that has set us back so far in such a short period. Businesses have closed for good. So many folks have lost their jobs. People struggle to put food on the table and are in a battle to avoid being evicted or foreclosed.

We’ve seen social unrest, political upheaval and a frustrating roller coaster ride with a health crisis that refuses to go away. Yet we manage to move forward, even if the steps are shorter and slower than we are used to taking.

In the past eight months, we’ve seen Derek Stevens stay the course downtown, his magnificent Circa Resort & Casino rising above the Fremont Street Experience, defying the naysayers and the coronavirus pandemic.

Stevens easily could have hit the pause button and waited until next year when there hopefully will be a workable COVID-19 vaccine and people won’t be afraid to get on a plane and come visit Las Vegas. But he’s a fearless Michigander. He wasn’t caving in. Too many people depended on him and damned if he was going to let them down.

So construction continued, albeit slowly at times. And even though Circa opens Wednesday, work remains on the hotel portion, which is scheduled to open Dec. 28, just in time for New Year’s Eve. And I think it’s safe to say we’re all anxiously awaiting Dec. 31 because who doesn’t want to bid 2020 good riddance?

A few miles south from Circa, Arroyo has been stuck in COVID gridlock at UNLV. The school was playing football in the fall, then it wasn’t playing, then it was after the Mountain West decided to have a season now rather than later.

There’ve been positive tests at UNLV but those who contracted the virus have had time to get healthy. The Rebels went to Carson, Calif., last Saturday to play San Diego State, a school which doesn’t have a home stadium in its city at the moment.

It didn’t go well for Arroyo. His team took it on the chin, 34-6, while playing three quarterbacks, none of whom distinguished themselves. But like every football coach who gets an L, Arroyo quickly turned the page and focused on this week’s opponent.

That happens to be the Nevada Wolf Pack. And unless you just moved to Vegas, this is a rivalry that is as intense as you’ll find in college football. They’ll play for the Fremont Cannon, which is currently in UNLV’s possession, and I anticipate a heated affair, with emotions running high.

I’ll go on record that whatever happens to the Rebels on the gridiron over the coming weeks, Arroyo has earned a mulligan. He has not had the chance to have a normal off-season of preparation that a first-year coach deserves.

But maybe through adversity will come success. And regardless of the outcome Saturday, just getting to play a game at home, in front of fans, I’d say that’s a win for UNLV and it will top off a special week for Las Vegas.