The Raiders no longer belong to Oakland.
The Silver and Black were given the approval to relocate to Las Vegas on Monday in a vote of NFL ownership at the league meetings in Phoenix.
This wasn’t a surprise. Not one bit.
Approval was expected, and the only owner who voted against the move was Miami's Stephen Ross. ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news.
The Raiders worked a sweetheart deal with Las Vegas on a reported $1.7 billion stadium project that includes $750 million in public funds and financing by Bank of America. The public will also pick up the tab on infrastructure improvements.
That option contrasts an Oakland plan slammed by the NFL, which wasn’t considered viable despite Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf's repeated statements to the contrary. The Raiders haven’t participated in East Bay stadium efforts, focusing solely on their Las Vegas project over the past year.
Despite that fact, Raiders owner Mark Davis felt conflicted over Monday's events. Leaving the East Bay was not originally his intended goal.
"I have mixed feelings, obviously," Davis said. "I love Oakland, I love the fans in Oakland, and I know that there’s going to be disappointment and maybe some anger. I just hope that in the future, as we play in Oakland this year, that they understand that it wasn’t the players, it wasn’t the coaches that made this decision, but it was me that made it, and if they have anybody to talk to about it, it should be me. I will, in the coming days, try to explain to them what went into making this difficult decision."
The Raiders decided to pursue relocation, and built an attractive plan that doesn’t include NFL-adverse attachments to gambling interests. It did with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was an investor, but they got clear of that when Adelson backed out in February. They lost him and investment firm Goldman Sachs at that time but recovered quickly when BofA hopped on board. Davis acknowledged the project wouldn't have succeeded without Adelson's sway and ability to secure public funds.
NFL owners discussed the Raiders application to relocate on Monday morning, and it quickly moved toward a vote. A league source said the Raiders met little resistance in the meeting room. The last leg of this year long quest went smooth, with the team having answered most questions about getting a new stadium in a decidedly smaller market. The stadium and finance committees reccomended approval, and the league did so shortly after
The Raiders are the third NFL team to relocate in the last 14 months, which is a bad look for the league.
"We work very hard, and never want to see a relocation of a franchise," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "That means exhausting our options and doing everything we can to keep a team in its existing market. There is a stadium situation in Oakland that needed to be addressed, and I think our friends in Oakland agreed with that. It’s been an issue for well over a decade."
The Las Vegas move is contingent on a few unresolved items, but there isn’t anything expected to halt this action. A lease between the Raiders and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority isn't complete, though a source said most points have been worked out. The pact should get done in April.
The Raiders haven't formally announced a stadium site, though a source said the team has an option to buy land just off the Las Vegas Strip, near the Interstate 15 freeway and Russell Rd. to build the stadium.
While the Raiders were approved to relocate, moving vans won’t line up quite yet. Their new Las Vegas stadium won’t be complete until 2020, and the Raiders plan to play in Oakland the next two seasons. The Raiders have a team option to play at Oakland Coliseum in 2017 and 2018. They’d be in limbo for 2019, though Davis said Monday he hoped to play in the Bay Area that season. They also have options to play in Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium should the Bay Area turn hostile, though it isn’t NFL ready without renovations and won't be used again after the new stadium is built. The new stadium will host the Raiders and the UNLV football team.
The Raiders will leave when ready, abandoning Oakland for the second time in 35 seasons. Late owner Al Davis left for Los Angeles in 1982, and returned in 1995 after Oakland offered to expanded Oakland Coliseum. The city is still paying back debt on that renovation. Mayor Schaaf said no public funds would be used for stadium construction, though owner Mark Davis’ major sticking points came over use and control of land on the Coliseum site, what he viewed as poor negotiating tactics and conflicts with the Athletics. The A’s also play at Oakland Coliseum on a lease that runs through 2024, though it has an escape clause had the Raiders locked down a football-only stadium there. Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney said Monday that the Athletics' presence on the Coliseum site was a complicating factor in getting a deal done.
Schaaf issued a statement decrying the Raiders leaving town. She hoped for a different outcome, and was never able to formulate a plan NFL ownership would accept.
“I am disappointed that the Raiders and the NFL chose Las Vegas over Oakland when we had a fully-financed, shovel-ready stadium project that would have kept the Raiders in Oakland where they were born and raised.
“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. As a lifelong Oaklander, my heart aches today for the Raider Nation. These are the most committed and passionate fans any city or team could hope to have. They deserved better.”