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Why the Raiders are leaving Oakland to move to Las Vegas

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The Raiders’ Week 15 loss to the Jaguars was their last game in Oakland.

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Raiders Las Vegas Stadium Site Under Construction Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Raiders have played their home games in the state of California for all 60 seasons of the franchise’s history.

Founded as a member of the American Football League in 1960, the Raiders played in Oakland for 22 seasons before moving to Los Angeles in 1982. The team returned to Oakland in 1995, but now it’s packing up to relocate for a third time.

The move to Las Vegas was finalized in March 2017 and will see the Raiders play in the brand-new $1.84 billion Allegiant Stadium beginning in 2020.

A 20-16 loss to the Jaguars was the team’s last in Oakland before the move. This time, for real.

The Raiders had a faux sendoff at the end of the 2018 season

Nobody was trying to be deceitful. It really looked like a Christmas Eve game at the end of the 2018 season would be the Raiders’ last hurrah in Oakland.

Oakland native and then-Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch lit the Al Davis Memorial Torch before the game. Fans rushed the field (and were subsequently arrested) after a 27-14 Monday night win over the Broncos. Someone stole a dang Oakland police car and quarterback Derek Carr did a victory lap with fans.

It felt like the perfect goodbye. Then the Raiders made a deal with the City of Oakland to keep the team in place for one more year. Now it’s time to do it all over again.

Fans are ready to be there for the goodbye

The Raiders were still in the postseason hunt entering Week 15, but those chances were slim after a three-game losing streak. Now those hopes are done for good after the skid extended to four games. Although the Jaguars aren’t exactly a marquee opponent, that didn’t stop fans from scooping up tickets in droves for the Raiders’ final home game of 2019.

While the Raiders already had an ersatz farewell to Oakland a year ago, there were still plenty of emotions Sunday.

“Obviously it’s weird, sad. I know some of the Raider faithful, they’ll probably be a little sad. It’s the last time, right?’’ Carr told USA Today prior to the game. “But it’s out of our control. It is what it is. I’m juiced. I’m going to be amped up, so I’ll have to calm down so I don’t throw it out of bounds to the 20th row. Hopefully we win the game and I can give somebody the ball. That’d be fun.’’

Marshawn Lynch showed up for the game and handed out shots to fans in the parking lot.

Ultimately though, it was a rough goodbye. The Raiders blew a 16-3 lead and gave up the lead in the final minute of the game. Fans booed when a Hail Mary attempt by Carr fell incomplete.

But why are they leaving in the first place?

The Raiders had a lengthy battle with Oakland for a stadium

Oakland doesn’t have strong attendance numbers and covers seats in the upper deck with a large tarp. That’s not why the Raiders are headed to Las Vegas, though. Like just about every relocation in pro sports, the move is a consequence of stadium issues.

Their current home is too old and out of date

After six seasons with games played in Kezar Stadium, Candlestick Park, and Frank Youell Field, the Raiders moved into the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum (now RingCentral Coliseum) in 1966.

It was the franchise’s home until the departure for LA, and it became the Raiders’ home once again when they returned. Right now, it’s the fourth-oldest stadium currently hosting an NFL team, behind only Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (1923), Soldier Field in Chicago (1924), and Lambeau Field in Green Bay (1957).

The Rams are leaving the LA Coliseum after the 2019 season. Both Soldier Field and Lambeau Field have undergone over $600 million in renovations during the 21st century. The last investment in the Raiders’ home was a $200 million renovation back in 1995-96.

Furthermore, RingCentral Coliseum is the last multi-purpose stadium that serves as the home of both an NFL and a Major League Baseball team. In 1971, 17 of the NFL’s 26 teams shared their stadium with an MLB club. As recent as a decade ago, the Raiders, 49ers, Chargers, and Vikings still did. But that’s become an outdated practice.

The Raiders wanted to leave RingCentral Coliseum to the Oakland Athletics and have a home of their own. That wasn’t easy to find in the East Bay.

Oakland wasn’t excited to dish out money for a $1 billion stadium

Rumblings that the Raiders could be on their way out of Oakland date back over a decade. A short-term lease extension in 2009 quelled those rumors and showed that the team and the city were willing to try to find a long-term solution.

The Raiders didn’t ask for an extravagant palace. In 2013, a team-commissioned study projected that a 56,500-seat stadium would cost about $800 million. The city wasn’t excited about the idea of pitching in to make the project happen, though.

Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2015 that she “cannot support spending a dime of public funds for a new stadium.”

“We don’t have $400 million lying around,” she said.

Eventually in 2017, the city put together a last-minute pitch to keep the Raiders from leaving that would include a $600 million investment from a New York-based hedge fund. However, the lack of public funding made the NFL uneasy. That’s probably not a bad idea for the City of Oakland, but it cost the area the Raiders when Las Vegas was willing to shell out an unprecedented amount.

Las Vegas promised $750 million in public funding

... and there you have it.

The record-breaking investment in taxpayer money doesn’t fall directly on the shoulders of Las Vegas residents. The city also approved a hike in the state hotel tax by 0.88 percent to deflect some of the financial burden on tourists.

But ultimately, the Raiders secured a public investment that was impossible for Oakland to come close to matching. Now the team is headed to Sin City, where it will play in one of the most expensive sports venues in the world. It’s the first NFL team ever in the state of Nevada and joins the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces as the third major pro sports franchise based in Las Vegas.

That’s why the Sunday matchup against the Jaguars was a goodbye to Oakland for the Raiders. Likely for good.