Despite signing a lease to stay in Oakland for the 2016 NFL season — and possibly beyond — the Raiders continue to pursue a move to Las Vegas. A move to Sin City once seemed like a pipe dream, and though it might not be likely, the idea of the Raiders eventually making their home in Las Vegas is getting more and more traction.
Shortly after the Raiders were passed over for relocation to Los Angeles in favor of the Rams, the team signed a one-year lease, which included two one-year options, to continue playing at the Oakland Coliseum. But owner Mark Davis is still trying to find a permanent home for the Raiders in the future.
“The Raiders will come if Nevada handles this properly,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told ESPN Radios’ Capital Games podcast Tuesday.
“Mark Davis has assured us that Las Vegas is not getting played in a Raiders stadium deal. I know we will have a team.”
Davis wants a new venue for his team, and Las Vegas seems eager to provide one. Meeting with the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee on April 28, Davis offered $500 million toward building a 65,000-seat stadium that would cost $1.4 billion in total.
A plan for the domed venue has been in the works for months. Las Vegas Sands Corp. has partnered with Majestic Realty to pledge $150 million in the proposal, and $750 million would have to come from the taxpayers. The stadium would not only host Raiders’ games but also University of Nevada - Las Vegas football and possibly a new Major League Soccer franchise.
The framework is there to make the Las Vegas Raiders a reality, but several obstacles stand in the way of getting something done.
The future home of the Las Vegas Raiders? pic.twitter.com/PwF4Tcgz3H
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) May 10, 2016
First, there’s the matter of getting the $750 million in public funding. Davis and the Raiders haven’t agreed to remain in Oakland for the long haul because local officials won’t give them money for a new venue. Las Vegas could provide that money, but only if the Nevada Legislature approves such a proposal. Those involved in the process that want the Raiders to move to Las Vegas are hoping that the deal is finalized at a special session in August.
Even if the Raiders get a deal done to build a stadium in Las Vegas, the venue won’t be ready for a few years. Construction hasn’t begun, and the Raiders might have to wait until 2020 to play in Las Vegas if everything falls into place.
Where will the Raiders play for the next three or four years?
Sam Boyd Stadium, where the UNLV Runnin' Rebels currently play their home games, isn’t big enough to host 8 regular-season NFL games a year, seating no more than 40,000 fans. The Raiders could stay at the Coliseum during the option years of their contract in 2017 and 2018, but doing so when the team has already announced it’s leaving for another city would be unprecedented. And that would still leave 2019, when the Raiders’ new Las Vegas stadium might not be complete.
After getting the city to approve the building of a new, expensive stadium, as well as finding a venue to play in for the next few years, the NFL still must agree to let the Raiders move to Las Vegas. Oakland needs votes from 24 of the 32 league owners, something that is far from a guarantee.
The NFL, as well as other professional sports leagues, has been wary of putting a team in Las Vegas. The city is home to a minor league baseball team but has never had a major professional sports team.
With legalized gambling, leagues have been fearful that a scandal could be just around the corner. The mere appearance of wagers influencing a game's final results have made leagues wary of a Las Vegas franchise.
“I think it would be a tough sell, but I don’t think it’s impossible,” one influential NFL owner told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “If they put such a good deal in front of the Raiders, it has a chance of getting support. I would prefer not to have the Raiders there. I would prefer they stay where they are. Oakland is a great market, but if there is no opportunity to put a stadium there, it would be hard to blame them for moving. I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to it if it’s the best alternative. If it’s between Las Vegas and being stuck in an awful stadium, there is nowhere else to go.”
Perhaps the most influential owner has given an unofficial vote of approval for putting a team in Las Vegas. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was essential in getting the Rams to L.A., and he could potentially play the same role with the Raiders and Las Vegas.
Jerry Jones is in favor of having an NFL team in Vegas. "I think Las Vegas is one of the crown jewel communities in the United States."
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 11, 2016
It’s unknown if the city would support an NFL team, considering there are already so many other attractions, and Las Vegas has never had a team from a Big Four sport. But ESPN’s Darren Rovell notes that casinos would be eager to purchase luxury suites, and the team could have a loyal fan base with no competition from other local franchises.