The Los Angeles Rams NFL team christened its new SoFi Stadium with a 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys last night, but the absence of fans created an eerie experience inside the 70,000-seat venue.

SoFi Stadium last week staged its virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off the venue’s first year and celebrate the work of the thousands of people that have been part of the development. At a reported cost of $5bn (£3.9bn/€4.2bn), the stadium, which broke ground in November 2016, is said to be the most expensive sports venue in history.

As well as the Rams, SoFi Stadium will serve as the home of the Los Angeles Chargers and the teams confirmed last month that they would begin life at the state-of-the-art venue without fans in attendance “until further notice”. The Chargers’ first game at the stadium is against the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday.

SoFi Stadium had been due to open with a Taylor Swift concert on July 25, but that event, along with performances by artists such as Guns N’ Roses and Tim McGraw, have been postponed until next year or cancelled completely. Pre-season games were also cancelled, meaning that yesterday’s game marked the first major event at the venue.

The Rams led 7-0 after the first quarter before the Cowboys reduced the deficit to trail 14-13 at the halfway stage. The Rams eventually went on to seal a 20-17 victory to ensure a winning start at SoFi Stadium.

A firework display and flashing lights greeted the teams as they entered the field but Rams coach Sean McVay admitted that it was an “eerie” experience playing in front of no spectators. “You appreciate the ebbs and flows and the big plays and the excitement from the crowd and how much energy they bring,” McVay said.

Despite the absence of fans, the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey was impressed by SoFi Stadium, describing it as “by far the best stadium in the NFL”.

As well as staging 20 NFL home games a year, SoFi Stadium will host a variety of events and has already secured the LA Bowl, WrestleMania in 2021, Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the College Football National Championship game in 2023 and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Olympic Games.

SoFi Stadium will be the centrepiece of Hollywood Park, a near 300-acre sports and entertainment destination being developed by Kroenke. It is the largest mixed-use development under construction in the Western United States. Entirely privately funded, Hollywood Park, when complete, will offer up to five million square feet of creative office space, a 500,000-square-foot retail district, up to 3,000 residences, and a hotel.

Image: SoFi Stadium