Raiders to move to Las Vegas as NFL owners grant Mark Davis' wish

PHOENIX – The Raiders are on the move again, and this time they’re headed to Las Vegas.

The Raiders received 31 of a possible 32 votes to approve the move on Monday, with the Miami Dolphins being the sole team to stand in opposition.

Raiders owner Mark Davis needed at least 24 votes, and there were several hours of meetings and presentations Monday at the NFL annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore.

The Raiders plan to remain in Oakland for at least the next two seasons, Davis wrote in a statement after the move had been approved. He added the team was open to the possibility of staying for the 2019 season as well.

"The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA," Davis said. "We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the team needed time to get its stadium built in Las Vegas, as NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman said the project is expected to be ready by 2020.

Oakland fans who had purchased season tickets prior to the relocation announcement will be granted refunds if they request them, Davis said.

The Raiders become the third franchise to push through a successful relocation vote in the last 15 months, after the Rams and Chargers both finalized their moves to Los Angeles.

Goodell wrote a letter to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf late Friday evening that expressed disappointment in the city’s latest stadium finance proposals and sparked a strong jolt of momentum for the relocation.

"Despite all of these efforts, ours and yours, we have not yet identified a viable solution," Goodell wrote. "It is disappointing to me and our clubs to have come to that conclusion."

The letter was in response to additional details Schaaf released publicly on Friday regarding the last-minute efforts from the city to keep the Raiders in Oakland. Schaaf wrote to Goodell that 55 acres just south of the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum were “immediately available” for a new stadium construction and the proposal also indicated that the Fortress Investment Group would offer $600 million for the project.

Schaaf had on Monday requested the owners delay their vote. After relocation was granted, she released a statement saying that the city's fans "deserved better."

“I am proud that we stood firm in refusing to use public money to subsidize stadium construction and that we did not capitulate to their unreasonable and unnecessary demand that we choose between our football and baseball franchises," Schaaf wrote. “As a lifelong Oaklander, my heart aches today for the Raider Nation. These are the most committed and passionate fans any city or team could hope to have."

Davis and the Raiders were wooed by a $1.9 billion stadium project – with $750 million in public funding – to be constructed near the Strip in Las Vegas. The project gained significant momentum when Davis secured Bank of America as a replacement investor for the $650 million commitment that was withdrawn by Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, in January.

The Raiders have been in Oakland in 44 of the franchise’s 57 seasons, including the last 22. The Raiders kicked off their history in the AFL in Oakland in 1960, but moved to Los Angeles for the 1982 season. They played there 13 years before previous owner Al Davis moved the team back to Oakland in 1995.

In this April 28, 2016, file photo, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis, center, meets with Raiders fans after speaking at a meeting of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee in Las Vegas. Nevada lawmakers convene Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, to consider raising taxes in the Las Vegas area to help fund a $1.9 billion football stadium, a $1.4 billion convention center expansion and more police officers to protect the additional tourists. (Photo: John Locher, AP)



NFL owners approve Raiders' move to Las Vegas

The Raiders are leaving Oakland again, this time for the neon lights of Las Vegas.

In a decision that would have been hard to fathom not so long ago, NFL owners voted 31-1 on Monday at the Annual League Meeting to approve the Raiders' proposal to relocate to Las Vegas.

The decision comes after years of fruitless efforts by Raiders owner Mark Davis to build a viable stadium in Oakland. The failure to do so, which goes back to Davis' late father Al Davis' stewardship of the team, led to exploring stadium options in Los Angeles and eventually Las Vegas, where Nevada lawmakers approved $750 million in public funding for a new stadium. The Autumn Wind will no longer blow through Raiders games as the team is expected to move into a planned $1.7 billion domed stadium in Las Vegas.

In what is sure to be an awkward process, the Raiders won't be moving immediately. The new stadium in Las Vegas is not expected to be ready until 2020. The Raiders plan to play at the Oakland Coliseum in 2017 and 2018, Davis said in a statement. Davis also expressed openness to staying in Oakland in 2019, although NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would look into potential venues for 2019. In the meantime, the Raiders will remain the Oakland Raiders.

"My father always said, 'the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,' and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness," Davis said.

This is a surreal moment involving one of the NFL's most iconic franchises, although NFL teams changing cities is sadly becoming routine. The news caps a frenetic 14-month stretch during which three teams announced plans for relocation. The Rams moved from St. Louis back to Los Angeles last year and the Chargers announced their decision to move from San Diego to L.A. in January. Goodell said last week on MMQB Peter King's podcast that leaving Oakland would be "painful."

The pain of not maximizing stadium revenues is perhaps a bigger issue within league circles. The Chargers left San Diego after 57 years because they couldn't solve their stadium dilemma. The Raiders are deserting Oakland for the desert for the same reason.

"The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA," Davis said Monday. "We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff. We plan to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and hope to stay there as the Oakland Raiders until the new stadium opens. We would love nothing more than to bring a championship back to the Bay Area."

On Friday, Oakland and Alameda County officials made an 11th-hour effort to persuade NFL owners that they indeed had a feasible stadium plan for the Raiders. In a letter to the league, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf outlined a proposal for a $1.3 billion stadium plan in Oakland that would include public financing. Raiders fans and the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board also made last-ditch pleas to the NFL, citing the Raiders' tradition and growing Oakland market.

Responding to Schaaf, Goodell wrote in a letter that the plan "does not present a proposal that is clear and specific, actionable in a reasonable time frame, and free of major contingencies." He added: "All of these efforts, ours and yours, have not yet identified a viable solution" toward keeping the Raiders in Oakland.

After no stadium solutions could be negotiated in Oakland, Las Vegas emerged as the Raiders' strongest potential destination after Nevada lawmakers approved $750 million in public funding for a new stadium. The Raiders and the NFL will provide $500 million toward stadium construction and Bank of America will contribute additional funding. The move to Vegas comes after the NFL rejected a plan in January 2016 by the Raiders and Chargers to share a stadium in the L.A. suburb of Carson, voting in favor of the Rams' Inglewood stadium project.

By the time Monday's vote arrived, the idea of the Las Vegas Raiders didn't seem so strange. Only the Dolphins voted against the measure. Owner Stephen Ross expressed publc disappointment about the move Sunday to the Bay Area News Group, comparing an NFL team to a utility and cautioning the NFL to consider its legacy in local markets.

"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 explained Monday, per Rapoport. "I want to wish Mark Davis and the Raiders organization the best in Las Vegas."

That message went unheeded, so this promising Raiders squad heads into the great unknown.

The announcement of the Raiders departure, after all, comes at a particularly juicy time in recent Raiders history. Twenty-two years after the team moved back to Oakland following 13 seasons in Los Angeles, the team has finally found a young franchise quarterback to build around. After more than a decade without a winning record, Derek Carr led the Raiders to a 12-4 record in 2016. Buoyed by a strong supporting cast, including pass rusher Khalil Mack and a stout offensive line, the Raiders have a young nucleus that looks ready to compete for a title.

The Raiders franchise has won three Super Bowls and an AFL title in its wandering 57-year history, creating a Raider Nation that goes far beyond the Bay Area's borders. In essence, that's what Davis and the NFL is counting on. That this fan base will continue to travel.

Still, Raiders fans in Oakland have patiently waited a long time for another winner. Now the team has a chance to accomplish something unprecedented in NFL history: Win a Super Bowl for a city just before leaving it.


Owners vote 31-1 to OK Raiders move; Dolphins vote against

PHOENIX -- The Oakland Raiders will move to Las Vegas after garnering enough votes from NFL owners on Monday to relocate to Southern Nevada.

The Raiders received 31 of 32 votes to approve the move. Twenty-four votes were needed.

"I have mixed feelings; it's very bittersweet," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com after the announcement was made Monday. "I understand (Oakland fans) will be angry and disappointed. I want them to know that I do understand that it's emotional. Raider Nation is the greatest fan base in the world and we're going to build something to make them proud.

"But I also want them to give as much support to the team as possible as we attempt to bring a championship to the Bay Area."

The Miami Dolphins were the only team to vote against the move.

"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. I want to wish Mark Davis and the Raiders organization the best in Las Vegas," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement.

The Raiders will still play in Oakland in 2017, and possibly longer.

"The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA. We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff." - Raiders owner Mark Davis

With a 65,000-seat domed stadium that will cost $1.9 billion to be shared with UNLV not expected to open until 2020, Raiders owner Mark Davis has told ESPN he plans on staying in Oakland the next two seasons. The team holds a pair of one-year options at the Oakland Coliseum.

"My father always said, 'the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,' and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness," Davis said in a statement. "I would like to thank Commissioner [Roger] Goodell, the National Football League and my 31 partners. I would also like to thank Governor Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature for their commitment. Finally, I would like to thank Sheldon Adelson for his vision and leadership, without which this project never would have become a reality."

Davis continued: "The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA. We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff. We plan to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and hope to stay there as the Oakland Raiders until the new stadium opens. We would love nothing more than to bring a championship back to the Bay Area."

The Raiders would presumably then have to find a place to play in 2019. Davis has all but ruled out using UNLV's current home, 35,500-seat Sam Boyd Stadium, about 9 miles southeast of campus, due to outdated locker rooms and the lack of a proper security border around the facility. The Raiders could conceivably play one preseason game a year at Sam Boyd Stadium before moving to Las Vegas permanently.

Davis said he was open to extending the team's lease and playing the 2019 season in Oakland as well.

"If they want us, we'd seriously consider it," Davis told ESPN.com.

"I want to come into Las Vegas clean."

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr tweeted that the news leaves him with mixed emotions.

Coach Jack Del Rio also said his feelings were mixed.

"My emotions are mixed. While I'm sad for family, friends and fans in the Oak area I also recognize the tremendous opportunity going forward for our organization," he told ESPN's Ed Werder in a text message. "That being said, my mission remains the same. To lead this team here and now. Players and coaches need to understand their defined roles. We all need to bring positive energy everyday as we focus on things that we control."

Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf made a last-ditch effort to retain the Raiders on Monday, after being told by Goodell in a letter on Friday that the city's proposal was not a "viable solution." In another letter delivered to owners Monday morning, she asked them to delay the vote in order to give Oakland a chance to negotiate with a small group of owners to complete a stadium deal at the Coliseum site. She also requested a secret ballot on the vote.

"I am disappointed that the Raiders and the NFL chose Las Vegas over Oakland when we had a fully-financed, shovel-ready stadium project that would have kept the Raiders in Oakland where they were born and raised," Schaaf said in a statement following the NFL owners' vote.

"I am proud that we stood firm in refusing to use public money to subsidize stadium construction and that we did not capitulate to their unreasonable and unnecessary demand that we choose between our football and baseball franchises.

"As a lifelong Oaklander, my heart aches today for the Raider Nation. These are the most committed and passionate fans any city or team could hope to have. They deserved better."

The Raiders are the only NFL team to share a stadium with a Major League Baseball franchise (the Athletics).

"We understand the Raiders' need for a new stadium. Oakland is an incredible sports town and we would be sorry to see them leave," the A's said in a statement. "We commend the city's and county's efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland. The Mayor and her team have worked incredibly hard to save the franchise. We are focused on, and excited about, our efforts to build a new ballpark in Oakland and look forward to announcing a location this year."

Davis had turned his focus to Las Vegas in April 2016, telling ESPN at the time he had tried for eight years to get a deal done in Oakland.

"Individually, they're great people," Davis said of Oakland city, Alameda County and Joint Powers Authority legislators. "But you get two or more of them in a room, total dysfunction."

The Raiders have committed $500 million toward the project, with another $750 million coming in the form of a hotel tax passed by the Nevada Legislature in October. The team has informed the NFL that Bank of America is also helping to finance the deal after casino magnate Sheldon Adelson withdrew his $650 million pledge in late January, essentially saying the Raiders dealt with him in bad faith. It will be the third time in franchise history the Raiders will move. In 1982 the team relocated to Los Angeles before returning to Oakland in 1995.

The Raiders received congratulations from the NHL's Golden Knights, the expansion franchise that begins play in Las Vegas starting in 2017-18.

"On behalf of the entire Vegas Golden Knights family, I would like to welcome and congratulate Mark Davis and the Oakland Raiders on their relocation to the great city of Las Vegas," Golden Knights chairman and CEO Bill Foley said in a statement. "It truly is an exciting time to be from Las Vegas. There is only a select group of cities in North America that are home to both an NHL and an NFL franchise and Vegas is now one of them. This alone should be a great source of pride for our community and our fans. Las Vegas has always been one of the most popular destination cities in the world and it is now emerging as a premier location for major league professional sports."

The Raiders become the third team in the past two years to be granted approval to relocate. Previously, both the Rams and Chargers were allowed to relocate to Los Angeles from St. Louis and San Diego, respectively.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he empathized with Bay Area Raiders fans.

"I don't ever like to see our teams move, but I was thinking back to trying to have our own stadium and what we went through and all the machinations," Kraft said. "The Raiders have been, since I've come in [1994], at the bottom of the league in terms of revenue, which I think has been difficult for them to do everything they've wanted to do for their football operations. I think they've worked very hard to try to make things work up there, and it hasn't worked out. I think now they have an opportunity to be a very solid, vibrant team.

"You can't compete at the highest level if you don't have a first-rate stadium. I think that's what this is really all about."

Kraft also spoke about Las Vegas as an NFL market, saying the first game his Patriots ever sold out was against the Raiders.

"They have a unique fan base that I think is very loyal to them and will travel with them," Kraft said. "I think Las Vegas as a destination for visiting teams will be very strong. I think every visiting team market; that's something they'll have to work with to try to sell out as best they can so they can control the home-team crowd. But I think it will be a wonderful venue and a wonderful market. It's unique, one of the only small markets that I can think of that could be in that category."

NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman acknowledged the league did studies on Las Vegas, which, at No. 40, would be the league's fifth-smallest market, but ahead of Jacksonville (No. 47), New Orleans (No. 51), Buffalo (No. 53) and Green Bay (No. 68).

"The existing size of Las Vegas, the diversification and the growth that it has undergone over the last 20 years, combine to make it a mid-sized market today but one that is exhibiting significantly above average growth," Grubman said. " Those things in combination - its current size with its above average growth -- combined to give the rest of the ownership confidence." NFL Nation reporters Mike Reiss and Nick Waggoner contributed to this report.

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