PHOENIX – For the third time in a little more than a year, an NFL team has been relocated.
NFL owners, gathered for their annual league meetings this week, voted Monday to allow the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas. The Rams moved from St. Louis and played in Los Angeles in 2016, while the San Diego Chargers followed them to L.A. earlier this year.
“We worked tirelessly and as hard as we could for over a decade to find a solution [in Oakland], and we just couldn’t get that done,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Ownership voted overwhelmingly in favor of the move.”
The vote, at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, was 31-1. The Miami Dolphins voted no.
“My father [Al Davis] used to say, ‘the greatness of the Raiders is in their future,’” Raiders owner Mark Davis said. “And the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is one opportunity that gives us the ability to achieve that greatness.”
The Raiders’ move had been expected for months in part because the team received about $750 million from Nevada taxpayers to build a stadium that will cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion. Davis is footing another $500 million, while Bank of America has said it will finance the rest of the project.
In what is sure to be an awkward two to three years, the Raiders will continue playing in Oakland and be called the “Oakland Raiders” until the new stadium is scheduled to open in 2020. Davis has two one-year options to play in Oakland in 2017 and 2018, and has indicated the team will stay at least that long.
The Raiders do not have a confirmed site to play in 2019, but are open to playing another season in Oakland. Although Davis has all but ruled out playing at UNLV’s 35,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium, it does remain an option should things deteriorate in Oakland.
“I have mixed feelings, obviously,” Davis said. “I love the fans in Oakland, and I know there is going to be disappointment and some anger. I just hope that in the future [fans] understand that it wasn’t the players, it wasn’t the coaches who made this decision. It was me that made it and if they have anybody to talk to about it, it should be me. … We’ll keep trying to bring a championship back to Oakland.”
For Vikings fans, U.S. Bank Stadium looks more inviting as more teams leave cities and states that wouldn’t support the NFL’s ongoing push for newer and better stadiums. U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened for the 2016 season and will host Super Bowl LII at the end of the 2017 season, was built with $498 million in public money and about $550 in team and private funds.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf spearheaded a group trying to keep the Raiders in Oakland. But a last-ditch presentation to the NFL last week was, according to Goodell, “filled with uncertainty.” Stephen Ross, the Dolphins owner, was the lone dissenting vote.
“My position today was that we as owners and as a league owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted,” Ross said in a released statement.
Las Vegas, once considered a taboo location for pro franchises worrying about the impact of legalized gambling, now has two professional teams. The NHL’s Golden Knights will start play in the fall in an arena that’s already been built.
Davis was asked what his late father, who moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles and back again during his ownership, would say about Monday’s decision.
“I think he’d be proud,” said Davis, a former waterboy for his father’s team. “Taking this organization into the future in a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world, I think he’d be proud.”