By Flint Wheeler
The NFL’s relocation carousel spun again Monday when owners approved the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. But the team won’t be moving for the 2017 season and maybe not for two years after that, creating a potentially awkward and negative dynamic between the team and many fans.
“I wouldn’t use the term ‘lame duck,'” Raiders owner Mark Davis said at the league meetings in response to a reporter who did. “We’re still the Oakland Raiders, and we are the Raiders. We represent the Raider Nation.
“There’s going to be some disappointed fans and angry fans, and it’s going to be up to me to talk to them and let them know why, how and what has happened. And hopefully we can work things out and work together for the future.”
That future involves significant questions as the Raiders plan to remain in Oakland while their new home — a $1.7 billion stadium — is built near the Las Vegas Strip. As that relates to the Bears, it’s uncertain what city will host the Bears’ expected visit to play the Raiders in 2019.
After owners approved the move Monday, as expected, by a vote of 31-1 with only the Dolphins dissenting, Davis explained to reporters a relocation plan that does not involve as quick of a break as the Rams’ move to Los Angeles did last year.
The Raiders already exercised their contractual option to play the 2017 season at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the decrepit condition of which drove their push to move. The team also has an option to play there in 2018. Unlike the Rams, who moved to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and have taken up residence until their $2.6 billion stadium is built, the Raiders don’t have an obvious temporary home in Las Vegas.
The Raiders’ home for 2019 depends on how quickly the new Las Vegas stadium can be constructed.
When the Raiders finally abandon Oakland Coliseum, Soldier Field will have the smallest seating capacity of any NFL stadium. The Coliseum actually has a bigger seating capacity now but seats only 53,286 for football because the team covers thousands of seats with tarps for its games. Soldier Field holds 61,500.
Monday’s vote was a foregone conclusion after the league and Raiders were not satisfied with Oakland’s proposals for a new stadium, and Las Vegas stepped up with $750 million in public money. Bank of America also is giving Raiders owner Mark Davis a $650 million loan, further helping convince the owners to allow the third team relocation in just over a year.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insisted the Raiders and the league worked for over a decade to try to find a stadium solution to keep the Raiders in Oakland. He cited the league’s promise of $100 million to the Raiders after their failed bid to move to Los Angeles last year.
“We needed to provide certainty and stability for the Raiders as well as the league,” Goodell said.
The Raiders’ move became more certain earlier this month when Bank of America offered the loan. That replaced the same amount the Raiders lost when the league balked at having casino owner Sheldon Adelson involved and he was dropped from the team’s plans.
Davis specifically thanked Adelson by name in his opening remarks Monday, saying the move to Las Vegas probably would not have come to fruition had it not been for him.