PHOENIX – The Raiders will spend one more season in Oakland, the final stretch of a prolonged transition from the East Bay to Las Vegas.
It will happen at the Oakland Coliseum, after NFL owners unanimously approved a new lease agreement on Monday at the annual league meeting. It was the last of four approval votes to validate a pact to play 2019 in Oakland.
It brought owner Mark Davis great relief, which was written on his face while speaking with NBC Sports Bay Area in the Arizona Biltmore hotel’s main lobby.
“I won’t work out a stadium lease again in my lifetime,” Davis said with a smile.
His search for a place to play 2019 has been stressful. The Raiders abandoned negotiations with the Oakland Coliseum in December 2018, after Oakland sued the Raiders and the NFL for antitrust violations and breach of contract.
That sent the Raiders searching outside the market, into negotiations with the San Francisco Giants to play at Oracle Park and the undesirable Levi’s Stadium option. They all proved fruitless, sending the Raiders back to work out a deal with the Oakland Coliseum.
Now the Oakland Coliseum deal is done, including a 2020 option to account for unforeseen Las Vegas stadium delays. In short, there’s the clear path to Las Vegas.
Davis is happy to have a place to play until the Raiders debut in the Silver State.
“I think (Raiders president Marc Badain and Raiders general counsel Dan Ventrelle), with both hands tied behind their back, did a really admirable job working with the city (of Oakland) and getting a deal done under tough circumstances,” Davis said. “We’re ready to go.”
Despite pulling his Raiders up and leaving for Las Vegas, Davis still holds affection for the Raiders’ Bay Area fan base, and hopes to honor the team’s past before starting a new chapter in franchise history.
“The main thing here is that we get to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the AFL and the Raiders in the Bay Area, which I was hoping to do all along,” Davis said. “That’s going to be exciting.”
While he’ll look back on his team’s tradition in 2019, Davis is focused on the future and a rapidly progressing stadium in Las Vegas.
“I go by it and water it,” Davis said with a smile. “Then I come back a couple weeks later and it grows.”
[RELATED: Carr's status unchanged with Raiders]
While there have been minor delays, the new venue opening just off the Las Vegas Strip should be ready to host games in Aug. 2020. A state-of-the-art training facility is being built in nearby Henderson, Nevada, and that could be ready around June 2020.
Until then, however, the Raiders have a place to play in Oakland as this long transition comes to a close.