On March 27, NFL owners voted to allow the relocation of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, Nev. After years of botched stadium deals and relocation attempts, the move seemed inevitable. The relocation will be league’s third in the last year, after the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers ditched their longtime homes for Los Angeles, Cal.
While it may seem cynical to let a franchise move to Sin City, there is a solid argument to be made. The greater Las Vegas area has more than 2 million residents, making it the largest metro area without a professional sports team. Although the NHL’s new expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, will begin play this year, the allure of an NFL franchise is much greater. The Raider’s history in Los Angeles also gives them an immediate fan base not too far away.
The Raiders have been trying to secure a new stadium for years. Their current stadium, the ugly and outdated Oakland Alameda Coliseum, has been standing since 1966 and its age and shortcomings have left the Raiders near the bottom of the league in home game revenue.
Unfortunately, the team was not able to secure the necessary tax dollars to fund a new stadium in Oakland. The NFL also rejected the Raiders’ proposed move to Los Angeles last summer, instead favoring the plan of the once St. Louis, now Los Angeles, Rams. However, the Raiders were able to cut a deal on a stadium in Las Vegas, one that was too good to pass up.
The Raiders will build their nearly $2 billion stadium with the help of $750 million in Clark County, Nev. taxpayer money along with $650 million in financing from Bank of America. Most of those taxpayer dollars will come from the litany of tourists that visit the city. Las Vegas owner Mark Davis also saved a ton of money by negotiating the relocation fee down to around $350 million, a significantly lower number than the $650 million both the Rams and Chargers paid.
Yet, there seems to be plenty of drawbacks to the move. The assumption that moving to a city without a professional franchise will guarantee success is shortsighted. Television money reigns most superior today. The Raiders will be moving from the country’s sixth biggest television market to its 40th. They will instantly have the fifth smallest NFL market as well. Although the Raiders have struggled to fill up seats in Oakland, there is no certainty that they will be able change that in Las Vegas. The city will be near the bottom of NFL cities in terms of population and average income. With that in mind, it may be difficult to fill a 65,000-seat stadium weekly. The Raiders have insisted that tourists will make up the gap and will buy as much as a third of each game’s tickets. However, there is currently no basis for the assumption that tourists can become a major source of ticket sales.
The sole winner of the move will not be the fans or the league, but the pockets of Raiders owner Mark Davis. The city of Oakland did its best to retain its team, making a final offer of $350 million in public money last December. Davis, just like many other selfish owners, instead went searching for a deal that would pay for the stadium itself. In fact, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s refusal to waste more public funds on a stadium has turned her into a local hero of sorts, and rightfully so.
Until their stadium is finished, the Raiders will remain in Oakland. The move will likely occur after the 2018 season, making for two seasons of the lame-duck Oakland Raiders. Perhaps the move will be for the best. The league could profit heavily with the addition of a Las Vegas television market. The stadium could also turn into a profitable tourist attraction for the team and city.
Andrew Lombardo is a journalism major from Middletown, Conn. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Anlombardo8.