Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis told a group of protesters that gathered at a San Francisco hotel that his “No. 1 choice” is to keep the franchise in Oakland. Davis’ comments came despite progress in the Raiders’ joint venture with the San Diego Chargers to build a new NFL stadium in Los Angeles County if the teams cannot secure funding for a new stadium in their current markets.
“I’m trying all I can do to keep this team in Oakland, OK? I don’t know what to do, I really don’t know. We’re trying. I’m not trying to divide any fan base. Every time I talk to anybody, I’m trying to stay in Oakland. That’s my No. 1 choice, but we can’t do this forever. I really appreciate you all, I really do,” Davis told protesters, according to the Associated Press.
The Raiders currently have a year-to-year lease at the Oakland Coliseum, their home since they returned to the city in 1995. But Davis has made it clear to local city and county officials that the Raiders are prepared to move to Los Angeles unless they receive public funding for a new $900 million stadium near the Raiders’ current home.
Davis has reportedly amassed $500 million toward the project, but needs $400 million in public money to move forward. Officials from the City of Oakland and Alameda County will purportedly inform Davis whether that will be possible by June 21, according to the AP. Davis also rejected rumors that he could sell the Raiders.
But there are doubts as to whether Raiders management and local officials will be able to come together on a new stadium in the Oakland area. One official connected with the negotiations said talks were “gurgling blood” and effectively doomed, the San Francisco Chronicle reported this week.
The Raiders and Chargers announced in February that they would jointly pursue a $1.7 billion, privately financed stadium in Carson, California, near downtown Los Angeles, ESPN reported. Both teams say they will only follow through on the project if efforts fail to build new stadiums in their current markets. The St. Louis Rams have also expressed interest in a move to Los Angeles and made progress on their own privately financed stadium project in Inglewood, California. Any NFL franchise that attempts to relocate to a new city would require approval from three-fourths of the league’s owners.
It’s too late for an NFL team to move to Los Angeles in time for the 2015 season, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last March that league officials were “not focused” on fast-tracking a move for the 2016 season. But the NFL is “confident there’ll be multiple options” in place by the end of this year, a source told NFL.com’s Albert Breer.