On Thursday, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis presented a plan to the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee for a $1.4 billion retractable roof stadium to be built in Las Vegas that could be used by both the Raiders and the UNLV Runnin' Rebels football team. The proposal includes $650 million in private funding and $750 million in public funds paid with an increase in tourism taxes, according to the Las Vegas Sun. $500 million would come from the Raiders, including a $200 million NFL loan, while $150 million would be paid by hotel-casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Our friends at Silver and Black Pride have a rundown of all that happened at the meeting, but I'd like to dive into the long game for the A's and the Raiders. What's clear to me is that the Raiders see Oakland as their third option, at least under the City of Oakland's current political appetite, and that their best bet is to secure a move somewhere whether that's Las Vegas or Los Angeles. The Raiders have set themselves up to be free to leave Oakland at any time after the NFL season, might gain the right to move to Los Angeles soon, but want to definitely gain the right to Las Vegas before then.
Let's consider first the likelihood of this Vegas proposal. There's no guarantee that this Committee will recommend constructing an NFL stadium. The Committee was created by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to examine not just this stadium proposal, but rather "to identify and prioritize tourism improvement projects in southern Nevada, explore potential funding mechanisms to support new tourism-related initiatives[.]" There are competing priorities here, including from rival hotel-casino owners who also want to increase Clark County's tourism taxes to fund an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, which competes with Adelson's Sands Expo and Convention Center for convention business.
Even if the committee recommends the stadium be built, it will have to convince Governor Sandoval to bring the Nevada Legislature into special session, most likely in August after the Committee issues its final report, to approve the funding for the public portion of the stadium. Unlike California's full time legislature, the Nevada Legislature is a part time body that only meets in regular session for 120 days during odd number years. And even then, Nevada's Legislature must be convinced that the plan will be of public benefit.
But right now, the Raiders know that even if they had all the financing in place to knock down the Coliseum and build a new football palace, the soonest they could kick the A's out of the Coliseum under the terms of their lease would be two years after giving notice.
There's no cost to the Raiders to at least try to attach themselves to what was initially an attempt by UNLV to fund a somewhat smaller-scale domed stadium to replace the open air 35,500-seat Sam Boyd Stadium. If the Raiders don't think they will build in Oakland against the City of Oakland's continued stance of protecting taxpayers from direct stadium subsidies, starting now on an alternative site is only prudent, even with Los Angeles as a possibility.
The Chargers, meanwhile, are collecting signatures for a November ballot initiative to build a combined stadium and expanded convention center near Petco Park. They still have that option to move to Los Angeles for the 2017-18 NFL season if it does not get approved.
If the San Diego stadium referendum passes in November
If a referendum approving a stadium passes, the Chargers can extend their deadline to elect moving to Los Angeles by another year, which would shut the Raiders out of Los Angeles until at least the 2019-2020 NFL season.
Without a Las Vegas stadium commitment, the Raiders are stuck waiting on the Chargers with no guarantee of being able to move out of the Coliseum. Even if the Raiders were able to move to Los Angeles, they would be moving in after the Rams had entrenched themselves there for three seasons. The Raiders would be to the Rams what the Clippers are to the Lakers.
If a Las Vegas stadium is approved instead, "[t]he team would probably move to Vegas in 2020," according to the Associated Press. The Raiders would stay in Oakland until then, playing a preseason game each year at UNLV's 40,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium starting with the 2017-18 season. Funnily enough, the most recent Raiders lease extension allows the Raiders to play one "home" preseason game per season away from the Coliseum.
Why do the Chargers need that extra option year anyway if the San Diego stadium referendum passes? While approval of a San Diego stadium initiative is a necessary first step to get the ball rolling in San Diego, it's not a guarantee that a stadium will be built in San Diego. As Dan McSwain puts it in a column for the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Even getting to construction will require highly competent city management, because so many crucial decisions would be made in the first year.
Setting aside those critics convinced the Chargers plan amounts to picking public pockets, voters must also decide whether they can trust their government to pull this off.
What Las Vegas does is offer the NFL a win-win-win scenario in case of a breakdown after the San Diego public approves a stadium financing plan. The possibility of moving the Chargers to Los Angeles would remain a cudgel the NFL could use to pressure San Diego politicians to get their act together, the Raiders would have a new billion dollar home in Las Vegas, and the Rams will happily enjoy the Los Angeles market.
The San Diego stadium referendum is not approved
If the Chargers don't gain voter approval of their San Diego stadium proposal, they are likely to exercise their option to join the Rams in Los Angeles for the 2017-18 season. The Raiders would still be searching for a new stadium site unless the Las Vegas deal was done at that point.
What the A's must do in the meantime
While the prospect of the A's becoming the sole tenant at the Coliseum seems close, we just went through this at last January's NFL relocation meeting. The A's have to continue considering alternative sites in Oakland, as there are still a lot of ways where the Raiders don't end up leaving for Las Vegas or Los Angeles. The Nevada Legislature could refuse to spend public money on a football stadium just as the City of Oakland has, San Diego could move to L.A., the NFL could remember that it hates Las Vegas for some reason as it plays an international showcase game in a city with a betting parlor at just about every street corner.
But if the Raiders do sign the right documents to irrevocably begin their move to Las Vegas or Los Angeles, the A's could know that as soon as next January's NFL meetings. At that point, the A's and the Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority can start planning around the Raiders as they head out the door for a new stadium out there, wherever there may be.
And to that I say, viva Las Vegas.