Are the Raiders willing to gamble on a move to Vegas?

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson)

By John Honea

It’s no secret that the Oakland Raiders organization does not want to remain the Oakland Raiders organization. Talks have been going on for years now about the idea of relocation. The move back down to LA almost became a reality last year, and considerations have been taken for places like San Diego, San Antonio, and even St. Louis, as it just vacated its stadium last year. The most recent and possibly most interesting development in the Raiders possible move, however, is to Sin City. Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee laid out a plan which they presented to the Oakland Raiders organization for a $1.9 billion stadium. This sounds great to the owners of the franchise, but there’s one catch: Nevada residents are expected, through taxes, to pay for $750 million of that stadium.

As anyone can imagine, residents were not pleased with this. In a city which has never seen professional football in its backyard, it’s hard to convince people there that they need to fork out extra taxes for this to be worth it. Las Vegas residents even rejected an initial proposal that only asked for $500 million to be paid through taxes. If $500 million won’t fly for the people, $750 certainly will not be much more popular of an option. The people of Las Vegas, however, have basically been left out of discussions, as the committee has skirted local regulations which require public participation in these sort of talks.

The claim is that the stadium, along with the franchise, will bring in $530 million annually to the city’s economy, although the standard revenue generated by having a football team in a city is in the $350 million range, far below the committee’s promise.

Vegas isn’t just any other city, however. As it pulls in more domestic tourists each weekend than any other town in the United States, filling the seats will not be a problem. Even if it were to take a long time for the Raiders to get a footing in Vegas as a local team, away fans would still likely show up more than they would anywhere else.

Sports can be successful in Vegas, even though they’ve never existed there. The NHL recently jumped onboard the Vegas train, putting their next franchise in Vegas, which sold out of tickets for its inaugural season before they even had a name for the team. Granted hockey arenas are a fraction of the size of a 65,000 seat football stadium (which the Vegas stadium would be) it shows that residents are ready for a sports team.

Raider fans don’t have to fret just yet, however, as enticing as these offers may seem. One voice has emerged on the side of keeping the Raiders in Oakland, and that is NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell.

If there’s anyone the community in Oakland wants to have speaking for them, it’s Goodell, who has voiced his own opinions against the move to Vegas, stating that he believes it to be in an organization’s best interest to work things out in their current city. He spoke at a conference in Minnesota recently, using the Minnesota Vikings as an example as they struggled the last few years with stadium issues, even playing games at the nearby University of Minnesota before settling into a brand new stadium. Goodell seems to be a man who appreciates a team’s loyal fanbase, stating “You never want to see a community lose their franchise once, much less twice.”

There’s an important word in there: community. If there is one thing to be considered it’s the Raiders community. The Raiders are a Californian team. They always have been. Putting them in Nevada will take away a huge part of their identity. Sure, fans will pour into Vegas as people pour into Vegas any other weekend, but it will be a long time before a team like the Raiders can truly rebrand themselves as a “Vegas” team or… get ready for it… a “Nevada” team.

With a man like Goodell on Oakland’s side of things, fans can breath a sigh of relief, although the proposed deal will still be negotiated regardless. Even if the Vegas deal falls through and the Raiders remain the Oakland Raiders, fans and those in the Raiders' community will always have to wonder where the organization is looking next. One can’t help but wonder if Mark Davis will ever give up his quest for Raiders imperialism, and just make their house into a home. 

(Photo by Jason O. Watson)