News seems to be heating up with regard to the possibility that the Oakland Raiders might move to Las Vegas. A recent report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, would be in Las Vegas at the end of April to meet with the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee regarding the potential for an NFL caliber stadium in Las Vegas. Let me be clear about this:
I have no idea whatsoever with regard to the stature and/or the importance of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee so I have no idea if this meeting is completely pro forma or if this is critically important.
According to the report in the Review-Journal linked above, whatever recommendations this Committee makes this summer will not be binding on anyone but I assume that its recommendations will carry some sort of weight. If not, then one needs to question why the Committee exists in the first place and why any NFL owner would take the time to meet with its members.
Las Vegas developers would propose to build a 65,000 seat stadium at a site near McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas near the top end of The Strip. I am surely not any kind of “real estate mogul” with any kind of useful insight into the Las Vegas market, but I can offer this observation:
From my visits to Las Vegas and traveling to and from the airport there, I think there is ample room to put a stadium where these folks say they want to put it.
By the way, I believe the proposed site for the stadium would be within walking distance of the Pinball Hall of Fame. That should be a positive consideration for this Committee…
The Raiders do need a new venue; the Coliseum in Oakland is a dump – and I say that knowing that some dumps around the world might take offense at being lumped into the same category as the Oakland Coliseum. Moreover, the Raiders’ lease with the city to use the Coliseum ran out at the end of last season; and in order to play there again this year, the lease costs for the team went up by $925K. That may not be a “killer amount” for an NFL team, but any increase in rent for a facility that suffers from random sewage backups into the locker room areas is problematic. The lease extension signed by the Raiders gives them two 1-year options to extend the lease for the 2017 and/or the 2018 seasons if they have to.
The NFL has seemingly kept an “open mind” with regard to Mark Davis’ interactions and meetings with Las Vegas movers and shakers. You could look at that in two ways:
1. The NFL has quietly come to grips with the reality that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas is no more a threat to the “integrity of the game” than is the presence of illegal gambling in every other NFL city.
2. The NFL is allowing Davis to do this to keep the pressure on the folks in San Diego to find a way to build a new stadium for the Chargers there. After all, if the Raiders can move to a city that was not on the radar at the previous owners’ meetings, surely the Chargers can pick up and go to LA where they can be part of the Stan Kroenke real estate development extravaganza.
With regard to his current thinking on those sportsbooks – those dens of iniquity – that the NFL has sought to avoid in the past at all costs, here is Roger Goodell’s more recent commentary:
“[The sportsbooks] are things we’d have to deal with. We would have to understand the impact on us. Each owner would have a vote; it would be a factor many owners would have to balance; the league would have to balance.”
“Relocations are always, as you know and we experienced it this January, one, painful, but two, subject to 32 teams’ view about it. They each make their own decision on that. That would be a factor that I think many owners would have to balance, the league would have to balance, but until we got a hard proposal that really put that in front of us, we’d have to understand what the ramifications of that are.”
A “relocation” for the Raiders might be more “painful” than it was for the Rams or potentially for the Chargers. The Rams paid the NFL more than $600M for the privilege of picking up and moving from St. Louis to LA. Stan Kroenke could handle that because his net worth is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $7B and his wife is the niece of the late Sam Walton who founded a company you may have heard of – – Wal Mart. Let’s just say she does not need to count pennies…
Raiders’ owner Mark Davis has no such access to those sorts of funds. If estimates of his net worth are accurate, he could not pony up $600M because he does not have it. And that presents a hurdle for Davis and for the other owners in the NFL. They will surely want their relocation fee paid; Davis will not get a free ride here. However, they may be leery of him taking on a partner with deep pockets if that partner happened to be a casino owner/operator. The league as an entity and the owners individually may be coming to a point where legalized gambling is not seen as the demon it once was but I really wonder if they are ready to have a casino owner as part of their exclusive club.
The Raiders’ fans in Oakland are caught in most uncompromising position. Their team plays in a venue that needs a $400M upgrade just to be classified as “woefully sub-standard”. At the same time, the city is in no financial state that would allow even a reckless custodian of the public coffers to spend something north of a billion dollars to build a new stadium for the Raiders. In San Diego, people talk about the absence of “political will” to spend tax revenue on a stadium for the Chargers. In Oakland, it is simpler than that; the tax revenue base simply is not there. Absent a “manna from Heaven” situation, the Raiders need to move out of Oakland. Maybe that is in the very near term; maybe it is in the intermediate term. But the team needs to move and the fans in Oakland need to deal with that reality.
Here is another comment from The Commish that adds some gravitas to Mark Davis’ flirtations with cities other than Las Vegas:
“There are several cities that have a tremendous interest in the Raiders. I’m hopeful also that Oakland will be one of those and that we can avoid any relocation to start with. Those are ultimately decisions about where they go and the impact that the potential gambling that we’d have to deal with. We’d have to understand it, we’d have to understand what the impact is on us and ultimately each owner would have a vote on that.”
Translation: You folks in St. Louis/San Antonio/Tidewater, VA/Birmingham who might want an NFL team in your area can start to dig deep into your pockets. If you do, we will keep your phone numbers on our speed-dial list.
Obviously, nothing has been decided yet and the NFL has not yet begun to put the squeeze on the cities that might want to have the Raiders as their own in the future. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that the Raiders are a franchise that is “in play” for any city that Is willing to spend the money to bring the team to its area. Most importantly, the reason that the Raiders are ‘in play” is that the cost of maintaining an NFL franchise is not an insignificant sum for a city these days. And Oakland is not a city with anywhere near the financial reserves to be able to afford such “team maintenance costs” without having to do some painful “other things” like close libraries, curtail transportation costs, keep police and fire departments funded at appropriate levels, … you get the idea.
Now if you think that the Raiders’ situation is complicated enough as it is and that there are too many balls in the air for now, just consider that the NFL could someday decide to expand to 36 teams. If that is the case, then international venues come into play and all sorts of other manipulative factors will become paramount. The fat lady has not yet sung; in fact, the fat lady may not be in the building yet warming up her pipes for her song.
Finally, in a previous incarnation, the Raiders took pride in populating the roster with some players who had a few anti-social tendencies. However, Al Davis is no longer among us orchestrating that sort of roster-mix. But if he were, he might take a close look at the person described here by Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:
“Kentucky fullback William Collins faces charges after police caught him and another guy walking down the street carrying a parking meter. He was actually preparing for another weird NFL combine event — the two-man parking meter shuttle.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………