VEGAS, BABY! RAIDERS’ RELOCATION APPROVED
phoenix» he Broncos can forget San Diego. Soon, they will forget Oakland too. At the NFL meetings team owners overwhelmingly approved the Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas, with only Miami voting in opposition. The Raiders needed at least 24 of the 32 owners to vote yes, and they received 31.
The Raiders are the third team to receive approval for relocation within the last year and a half, joining the Chargers and the Rams, and the second AFC West rival of the Broncos to be moving. The Raiders are expected to move to Las Vegas in two years, meaning the Broncos’ road schedule in 2019 will have a much different look.
“It’s a tough day for the National Football League and especially the fans of Oakland,” said Broncos CEO and president Joe Ellis, a member of the NFL’s stadium committee and stadium security and fan behavior committee. “We’ve now had three teams move in the last (15 months), so anytime a team relocates, it’s difficult on their fan base, their community. We’ve certainly got a stake in the game; they’re a big rival and we go there every year and to not go to the Black Hole after two more years will be difficult, just because our players, our fans get to go to the games out there. Our organization, we have great respect for the Raiders and we love the rivalry.
“But it’ll continue in Las Vegas. I credit the Raiders for coming up with a creative solution that gets them what will be a great, state-of-the-art venue and Las Vegas appears to be a city on the rise that will support NFL football, and certainly the Raiders’ fan bases always follow them wherever they’ve gone over the years. So I think the rivalry will endure.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell penned a letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland that was obtained and published by the East Bay Times over the weekend. Goodell thanked Schaaf for her effort in trying to keep the Raiders from moving but said the city’s proposal wasn’t “clear and specific, actionable in a reasonable time frame, and free of major contingencies.”
Basically: Good try, but not good enough.
With momentum having clearly shifted in favor of a Raiders move to Las Vegas before Monday’s voting, Ellis said he entered the meeting with mixed feelings: While he didn’t like to see another team on the move, he understood the reasons.
The Raiders secured a $650 million loan from Bank of America and a commitment for $750 million in taxpayer money for their proposed $1.7 billion, 65,000seat stadium near the Las Vegas Strip.
Oakland’s proposed $1.3 billion, 55,000-seat stadium was projected to be ready by 2021 and included a $600 million loan from Fortress Investment, a $500 million commitment from the NFL and $200 million from the city. Fifteen acres would be reserved for baseball’s Oakland Athletics, if they opt to stay.
In 1998, as the Broncos headed for a second consecutive Super Bowl title, Denver-area voters approved the construction of a new stadium for the team that cost about $400 million. A six-county sales tax increase paid for nearly $300 million, and the taxfree municipal bonds were paid off in 2012.
“We were very fortunate 18 years ago,” Ellis said. “Those days are far and few between, of getting public support. In Las Vegas, you get $750 million put forward for the Raiders’ stadium. It’s pretty amazing.”
For years, the NFL and other pro sports leagues opposed moving to a city that had legalized gambling. The NFL prohibits its players from gambling.
“I think the owners’ and the league’s attitude toward the market has changed over time and their willingness to accept it for what it is — a great entertainment city,” Ellis said. “Yes, it has gambling, but there’s less of an emphasis on that, I think, and there’s more of acceptance perhaps of the city overall. So that’s certainly there, and the thriving nature of the city, the way it’s growing — it’s one of the fastest-growing Hispanic communities in the country. There’s just a lot of upside there that everybody sees and they put together a great presentation to build a stadium and welcome the Raiders. And I think it’ll be great for Denver Bronco fans. That’s a short trip, and it’s a fun trip.”
Broncos general manager John Elway echoed Ellis’ sentiment in that the team will miss traveling to Oakland regularly but is excited about the future in Las Vegas.
“Oakland was always a unique place to go play and they had a great following there,” Elway said. “But times change, and it’ll be interesting playing in Las Vegas too. I know the stadium looks beautiful there, so we’re looking forward to that too. But we’ll miss Oakland.”
Fan Matt Gutierrez carries a Raiders flag Monday by a famous sign welcoming visitors to Las Vegas. NFL team owners approved the move of the Oakland franchise to the largest city in Nevada in a vote in Phoenix. John Locher, The Associated Press
Raiders fan Robert Morales discusses the impending move of the team to Las Vegas on Monday at a sports bar in San Leandro, Calif.