AT&T Park has come up as a potential host for Raiders football next season, and the Giants confirmed Friday that they're talking to the NFL team about the possibility.
“There has been initial interest expressed in exploring the opportunity of the Raiders playing at AT&T Park," the Giants said in a statement to NBC Sports Bay Area. "Many details would need to be figured out. The Giants want to do what’s best for Bay Area fans and would be open to the concept just as we hosted Cal Football in 2011 when Memorial Stadium in Berkeley was being renovated.”
The San Francisco ballpark became an option for the Silver and Black because the Coliseum has become unattractive after Oakland sued the franchise and the NFL for what it alleges are antitrust and breach of contract violations.
Raiders owner Mark Davis hasn’t eliminated the prospect of returning to Oakland, but he has made it clear that the team is exploring all options for a home field next year. The Raiders are scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas after that and play in a brand-new stadium starting in 2020.
Playing in the Bay Area isn’t a requisite, but it’s safe to say it’s preferred. Raiders coach Jon Gruden is a noted homebody, but he isn’t the only one who'd prefer to play home games in the market where they practice.
Raj Mathai, lead anchor for NBC Sports Bay Area sister station NBC Bay Area, reported earlier Friday that the Raiders and the Giants were talking, and that playing NFL football at the picturesque ballpark is a “distinct possibility.”
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport brought up the point that AT&T Park resides within 49ers territory, meaning the Raiders would have to receive approval to move there. That’s true. According to NFL bylaws specifically drawn out for the 49ers and the Raiders, one team can’t play in the other’s city without prior consent from the other.
While the 49ers play in Santa Clara, the Raiders can’t move into San Francisco even for a season without that rubber stamp.
It’s uncertain whether 49ers approval would be easy or hard to come by. It might be OK for one season, and possibly preferable to both teams over sharing Levi’s Stadium for a year. Again, that’s an unknown at this stage.
There are several hurdles to clear in a relatively short time, considering NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would prefer the Raiders select a home venue by January or early February so the league can make the 2019 season schedule.
While playing in a distinct baseball venue seems odd on the surface, it isn’t farfetched. AT&T Park regularly has hosted college football bowl games, and as the Giants mentioned in their statement, it was Cal’s home site in 2011 while Memorial Stadium was being renovated.
A major concern is an NFL team’s impact on the baseball playing surface. After looking at the Giants’ 2019 schedule, there’s a way to minimize that issue.
Here’s one idea for how it could get done: The Raiders often play three of their first four games away from the Coliseum because Davis hates playing on the two-sport facility’s infield dirt. The team did so in three of the past five seasons, and it certainly could do so again in 2019.
The Giants play a weekend road series in Atlanta during the NFL’s Week 3, with an off-date that Monday. The Raiders could play a home game at AT&T then, leaving just six remaining regular season games where the field would be impacted for baseball. The off day also would provide time to reconfigure the field lines and pitching mound back to Giants standards.
There are preseason games to consider in August, but the Raiders easily could ship those games outside the Bay Area to other hotbed markets, including Reno or Las Vegas.
There are enough seats to sell, with all the public transit, concessions and infrastructure -- and there's a brand-new, state-of-the-art scoreboard going in -- to easily accomodate an NFL team. It might not be cheap, but the Raiders should be willing to shell out some cash to secure a temporary home site and relieve this headache.
Again, the Raiders haven’t eliminated the Coliseum as a possibility in 2019. Davis doesn’t like Levi’s Stadium, and AT&T Park would keep the Raiders close to their Alameda training facility. Playing in a baseball venue would have its quirks, but there’s no perfect option with the lawsuit creating friction between the team and the city that helps run the Coliseum.
If the Raiders ultimately decide to play elsewhere in 2019, AT&T might be the best possible alternative for Davis, Gruden and a team that's inching ever closer to leaving the Bay Area for good.