The Raiders are relocating to Las Vegas to move into a brand new stadium that will open in 2020. Until then, the Raiders will play two more seasons in Oakland before moving into a temporary home in Las Vegas for the 2019 season.
Struggles to secure a new stadium in Oakland made the move look increasingly likely and eventually a seemingly foregone conclusion. Reports Monday morning suggested the Raiders had enough votes to confirm a move, and it was made official at the NFL’s annual owners meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. with a 31-1 vote. The Miami Dolphins’ Stephen Ross was the only owner to oppose the relocation.
“My father always said, ‘the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,’ and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement released Monday.
It will be the third relocation for a franchise that was a charter member of the American Football League in 1960 and originally called Oakland home. It moved to Los Angeles in 1982 and back to Oakland in 1995, but will now leave California for the first time.
It’s also the third NFL relocation in less than two years with the Rams moving to Los Angeles in January 2016, and the Chargers joining them in L.A. in January 2017. The Raiders also filed for relocation to L.A., but were given third priority for the move.
Why leave Oakland?
Like the Rams and Chargers, the Raiders’ move to a new city is a consequence of an inability to secure a new stadium in the original city. The only stadiums currently in use that are older than the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum are Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Soldier Field in Chicago and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which is serving as the temporary home of the Rams.
The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum also serves as the home of the MLB’s Oakland Athletics. Multi-purpose stadiums that host baseball and football games was once common practice. In 1971, 17 of the NFL’s 26 franchises shared a stadium with an MLB team, but with the Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas, the number is zero for the first time.
The dual-use quickly became defunct as the business of expensive stadiums put a premium on sites that are tailor-made for the tenant. The Raiders’ desire of a new stadium was largely predicated on the fact that it did not want to share a stadium with the A’s anymore.
A last-ditch effort by the City of Oakland to keep the Raiders proposed a new stadium be built neighboring the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum — which would serve as the continued home for the A’s — and even that was an objectionable idea to the NFL.
“The long-term nature of the commitment to the A's remains a significant complication, and the resolution of that issue remains unknown,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, per ESPN. “Other significant uncertainties, which we have previously identified, remain unaddressed.”
Schaaf said via a statement released Monday that she was disappointed in the team’s decision to move to Las Vegas and that her “heart aches for Raider Nation.”
“I am proud that we stood firm in refusing to use public money to subsidize stadium construction and that we did not capitulate to their unreasonable and unnecessary demand that we choose between our football and baseball franchises,” the statement read.
But even baseball team aside, the Raiders’ stadium in Oakland was one of the oldest in the NFL and the team has long aimed higher. It was the original home of the franchise, but when then-owner Al Davis unsuccessfully fought for a renovation that would have added luxury boxes, he turned his attention to Los Angeles.
Davis moved the team after he won an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, but returned to Oakland 13 years later after a $25.5 million renovation added luxury boxes.
Still, the stadium is now over five decades old and the pursuit of a new, better home didn’t yield many results in Oakland. It did, however, find momentum and progress in Las Vegas, where a plan came together over the last year.
The Raiders will remain in Oakland for the next two seasons, but Davis hesitated to refer to that timeframe as “lame duck” seasons.
“First off, I wouldn’t use the term ‘lame duck,’” Davis said during a press conference right after the move was confirmed. “We’re still the Oakland Raiders.”
Davis said the team is looking into the possibility of remaining in Oakland for the 2019 season as well. Still, Davis understands that fans in Oakland are going to be disappointed by the move, and he said the team will issue refunds to disgruntled fans who purchased season tickets.
Why Las Vegas?
Immediately after the Raiders’ attempt to move to L.A. came up short, the team turned its attention to alternatives. The City of Oakland and the team still struggled to find an agreeable solution and, while there were rumors of San Antonio emerging as a possibility, nothing came of the rumblings.
Instead it was Sin City that quickly jumped into the mix and pushed itself well ahead of any offer Oakland could muster with $750 million in public funding and another $200 million for maintenance over the next 30 years.
Oakland was committed to finding a proposal that didn’t rely on public funds and that left a giant gap to fill, that the city ultimately couldn’t. Even when a development group spearheaded by Raiders-great Ronnie Lott made a push to keep the team in Oakland, and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson pulled out of the Las Vegas stadium deal, it still wasn’t enough to keep the Raiders in California.
It was Bank of America that ultimately secured the move with a financing plan that will call for the Raiders to contribute $500 million to the new stadium.
Quarterback Derek Carr said via Twitter that he was “overwhelmed with emotion” by the news.
“I feel the pain of our fans in Oakland,” Carr said. “I also see the joy on the faces of our new fans in Las Vegas.”
Aren’t professional sports in Las Vegas a bad idea?
Professional sports leagues have long been wary of placing a team near the gambling capital of the United States. One potential concern has been the possibility of corruption, with players influenced by gambling executives seeking to influence games.
But with the internet creating a surge in off-shore gambling and instantaneous sharing of information, that concern has waned.
The approval of a move for the Raiders to Las Vegas may be a softening of the anti-gambling stance for the NFL, although Goodell has said that he doesn’t intend to back down entirely.
Goodell on gambling: "We remain very much opposed to gambling on sports. .... we want to make sure we're doing what's right for the game."— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 19, 2016
It’s even considered a possibility that the NFL could request sportsbooks in Nevada to pull Raiders games as betting options. However, Las Vegas will soon be home to an NHL franchise and any kind of betting ban seems like a long shot.