Las Vegas is a vacation destination that millions of people travel to annually. For Super Bowl 58, there are two types of travel — the players are here for business and fans have followed to enjoy Vegas hospitality.
Both the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are familiar with Las Vegas. The Chiefs play a division road game in the city each season and the 49ers came in August for a preseason game against the Raiders. But this is different. This is no normal trip for either team. Las Vegas offers the fans plenty of chances to have some fun, but those same things players will attempt to avoid before the game on February 11.
“We already play here once a year, but it’s different being here for a whole week,” said Chiefs defensive end George Karloftis. “We’re away from everything and focusing on the game. Everything (in Las Vegas) is about 40 minutes from here, so it’s tough to get to it.”
Both teams are staying near Lake Las Vegas, a resort area 25 miles east of Allegiant Stadium, site of Sunday’s game. The NFL appears to have answered the question about allowing its players to be too close to the action of the Las Vegas Strip by simply not allowing them to be near it.
“The NFL makes sure that we stay really focused,” 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings said. “We played in Vegas before, so this is a work trip.”
The prevailing sentiment among the players during media availability this week was that Las Vegas is a great place for the fans to visit, but the players remain locked in.
“This isn’t like a trip to any other place,” 49ers offensive lineman Aaron Banks said. “This is Vegas and this is the Super Bowl, so it’s very different. I hold the guys around me accountable to the same standard we set in our locker room. We just need to be doing the right things and take care of business.”
Karloftis, who is playing in his second straight Super Bowl, went a step further, saying that he was happy to be far from any diversions.
“You have to focus because this is a business trip,” he said. “It’s no good if you come all this way and lose. Lake Las Vegas is great; it’s quiet and far from all the distractions so it gives us an opportunity to focus on winning the game.”
Chiefs tight end Blake Bell will play in his second Super Bowl with the team, this time facing the franchise that drafted him in 2015, San Francisco. Despite several trips to the Super Bowl since he signed with KC in 2021, Bell doesn’t forget to savor the big moments.
“This is awesome,” Bell said. “It’s Vegas, baby, and you gotta love it. We’re in a great spot out here at Lake Las Vegas and we have to take some time to enjoy the week and everything that comes with it. I have family and friends coming in, so it’s special to be around your loved ones. But it’s also another Super Bowl and another opportunity to play a game. So we’re focused on preparing for the 49ers.”
The Chiefs are looking for back-to-back Super Bowl titles, while the 49ers are searching for their first championship in 30 years.
Many of the current San Francisco players weren’t alive when Steve Young led the team to its last title in 1994. The team has lost two Super Bowls in recent years, to the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 and the Chiefs in 2020.
The “49er Faithful” is the nickname given to the Bay Area fans and they travel anywhere the team does, especially Vegas. When San Francisco visited the Raiders for the preseason game six months ago, it was a sea of red.
“That’s what the Faithful are; they always travel and make every away game feel like a home game” Jennings said. “And that’s what it’s all about.”
The cost of this inaugural Las Vegas Super Bowl is steep. The ticket price could end up setting records when all is said and done, with the current average ticket for the game exceeding $7,000. A last-minute hotel room in the city is averaging around $400 per night. Flights from Kansas City and San Francisco are hovering around $600 round trip.
But that doesn’t seem to be a problem for 49er fans, who invaded the NFL’s Opening Night celebration at Allegiant Stadium.
“It’s awesome; our fans are the best,” Banks said. “I mean you saw them in the stadium opening night … they were in there booing and cheering. And even at the end, even after the big show happened and we were talking to the media in the mosh pit, they were screaming the whole time and chanting. We love the Faithful.”