ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Raiders plan to spend the next two seasons in Oakland. Owner Mark Davis doesn’t want to leave the East Bay until his new Las Vegas Stadium is complete in Aug. 2020.
They have a one-year lease option to play at Oakland Coliseum. Davis wants to remain there in 2019, though a new agreement must be reached for that year.
The Silver and Black will continue serving two markets, as they practice and play in Oakland while moving forward with new digs, ticket sales and increase community outreach.
The Raiders, Davis in particular, have been careful to pay homage to the Bay Area market they still call home, even while so much focus on the business side is honed on Las Vegas.
It’s a delicate balance Davis must walk to keep his Raider Nation intact.
“I said a few years ago that it was the biggest challenge,” Davis said on Sunday at the NFL owners meetings. “Right now, we’re serving the Oakland market. The fans there, and the Raider Nation is what we’re serving. We have never deviated from that, and we have great respect for everyone up there.”
The Raiders remain an Oakland team. They don’t sell Las Vegas Raiders merchandise, even in Sin City, but have increased community outreach in Nevada. They have opened a Raiders Preview Center in the market that acts as a museum and shows plans for a new stadium being constructed off the Las Vegas Strip.
Ticket demand is high. The Raiders have taken 50,000 deposits on season tickets, a monster number that shows the draw of an NFL team in that market. The team has started selling suites and is starting to open up club seats for purchase.
Oakland Raiders fans, however, will get first crack at seats in the new place.
“All current season ticket holders have first priority coming in, which is different that how others have done it,” Davis said. “From there, we’ll move into the local market.”
Davis has great affinity for the East Bay and Oakland in particular, and saying he wants to win a championship before moving away isn’t lip service. He’s passionate about that quest.
“The Raiders were born in Oakland, and that will always be part of our DNA,” Davis said. “No matter where we go, that was our home. That’s where we started.”
The Raiders moved to Los Angeles for a time, returned to Oakland and are leaving again after landing a sweetheart stadium deal that includes $750 million in public funds. The Raiders are assuming the cost of a significant portion of the $1.8-billion project, which will get final approval at these owners meetings.
Davis wasn’t able to secure a deal in Oakland, where publics funds weren’t available beyond infrastructure improvements. They were mired in a complex situation with MLB’s Athletics also on the Oakland Coliseum site, and at times butted heads with local politicians. Those exchanges remain a point of frustration for the Raiders owner, but he chooses to focus on making the most of his remain time in Oakland.
Local TV ratings are down, but Raiders fans still show up in droves on game day and create a home-field environment. Focus there is on football, not the fact the Raiders are moving again.
“It has been interesting,” Davis said. “I expected more blowback than we’re received. There’s a vocal part of the fan base that is really angry, but 99.9 percent of it is positive. It’s been amazing to me how great our fans have been. I’m seeing less and less of the anger every day.”
The transition from Oakland to Las Vegas can be an awkward one, asking for support from a community you’re leaving to join another. Davis understands that fact. He understands the anger and frustration and is trying to be as forthright as possible and explain to fans exactly why he’s making decisions.
“I’ve always tried to be honest and transparent,” Davis said. “I think people have been surprised the last two years that we’ve sold that stadium out. The key thing is to be honest (with fans).”