The Raiders’ possible move to Las Vegas is starting to gain serious momentum, looking less like a leverage play by franchise owner Mark Davis over the city of Oakland, and more like a legitimate relocation possibility.
On Tuesday, Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman appeared on ESPN’s Capitol Gains podcast and expressed her confidence in Davis and the financing for a proposed $1.3 billion domed stadium in Vegas.
“Mark Davis has assured us that Las Vegas is not getting played in a Raiders stadium deal,” Goodman said. “I know we will have a team.”
“The Raiders will come if Nevada handles this properly,” she added.
In April, Davis met with Las Vegas officials and pledged $500 million toward the stadium, which would also be used by UNLV and a possible MLS expansion team (David Beckham was also in attendance). According to ESPN, the Sands Group (founded by billionaire Sheldon Adelson) and partnering Majestic Reality have pledged an additional $150 million.
The remaining $750 million would could from tourism taxes, though this remains the biggest uncertainty as the Nevada state legislature, which does not meet until 2017, would have to divert some state room-tax funds in order to corral the necessary money.
Goodman repeatedly said she feels that Las Vegas will do its part.
“We are getting calls from outside the region offering to help with funding for stadium in Las Vegas,” Goodman said.
As we’ve previously noted, stadium financing is only the first step in the longer process of actually moving the Raiders to Las Vegas. If the financing were to pass, 24 of 32 NFL owners would still need to approve of the relocation.
It remains unclear which way the ownership is leaning.
When Stan Kroenke moved the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles, we learned that NFL ownership is staunchly divided between old-guard owners like the Mara and Rooney families, and the comparatively new-money owners like Jerry Jones and Kroenke. It’s not inaccurate to think that these two factions of ownership will also butt heads on Las Vegas: John Mara has expressed trepidation about Las Vegas because of the casinos, whereas Jones and Kroenke are reportedly interested in the Las Vegas for the same reasons they were interested in Los Angeles: it is another big market for the league to tap into.
One allegedly influential owner anonymously told the New York Daily News that he views Las Vegas as a hard sell, but not an impossible one.
“I think it would be a tough sell, but I don’t think it’s impossible. … 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.”
Oakland may be a great market, but its officials seem to have little interest in shelling out the public funds needed to keep Davis’ team in town. In March, the city raised the team’s rent at the O.co Coliseum from $925,000 in 2015 to $3.5 million for 2016. City officials haven’t shied away from speaking their mind about Davis.
“I’m ready to kiss and say goodbye and help him pack his bags,” Oakland city councilman Noel Gallo said of Davis.
For now, we’re still a long way from a potential vote among owners, much less a move. But based on Goodman’s recent statements, it’s time to stop thinking about Las Vegas as little more than an empty threat dangled over the city of Oakland. Instead, it could in the coming years be the NFL’s next city.
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