Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Ribeyes, Helicopter Rides, And Booze: How San Antonio Wooed The Raiders

Illustration for article titled Ribeyes, Helicopter Rides, And Booze: How San Antonio Wooed The Raiders

Would you like a $2,005 dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse? A corner room at the Grand Hyatt? Do you want someone else to pay for all this? Of course! All you need is to own an NFL team. Any team will do, even the Raiders.

The food, the free hotel and so much more were all part of the package when Mark Davis & Co. went down to San Antonio back in July to check things out because their lease runs out in Oakland at the end of this season. On Tuesday, the city released reams of emails requested under Texas' public records law. And those emails show people in San Antonio working very hard—and spending a lot of money—to make sure Davis, Marc Badain from Raiders business operations, and Larry Delsen had a very good time.


They had a $2,005.08 dinner at Ruth's Chris, spent another $764.41 in booze, got a helicopter tour and went on a breakfast barge. I'm not even sure what a breakfast barge is, but damn that sounds good.

But before the fun could begin, they needed a really boring statement to give the press in case people start asking questions. San Antonio's director of convention, sports and entertainment facilities, Michael Sawaya, sent this out before the Raiders contingent arrived:

Mayor and council members,

This weekend, we will be hosting the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff. Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio, therefore, we are engaged in preliminary discussions. The agenda includes a tour of the Alamodome on Friday night, followed by meetings with a small group of local business leaders, including Henry Cisneros and former NFL Team Owner, Red McCombs. While this is very confidential, it may come to the attention of the local press; therefore, I have prepared the following statement: ...

"Oakland Raiders officials are in town this week to meet with the City regarding the possible use of the Alamodome for future NFL games. Due to our historically stable and growing economy, there is steady interest in San Antonio from many diverse entities. We are always prepared and ready to promote the city in a progressive and positive manner. These discussions are in a very preliminary stage.

Now let's get the party started! Sawaya really wants this visit to go well. On July 11, he writes to one person:

Please ensure they are well taken care of, as this is an extremely important "once in a lifetime" tour. Thank you so much for all of your help in ensuring the finest treatment.


When you own an NFL team—even one that hasn't had a winning season since 2002—only a "once in a lifetime" tour will do. In the emails, there is a lot of talk about which downtown Hyatt to put the Raiders trio in. The Grand? The Riverwalk? There are pages and pages of emails fretting about which hotel. There's concern about putting them in the Grand Hyatt because it "has a convention and is booked with Comic-con type attendees," Sawaya wrote in one email. Oh no! The horror! But they eventually settle on the Grand Hyatt—with an upgrade to the executive floor—because that will be more convenient for Davis, who also is designated as the top VIP and will get a corner room.

Phew, thank goodness that got solved.

On July 17, an executive assistant with Hyatt sent an email confirming how special things will be for the Raiders.

All guests will have Grand Club access and have a welcome note from Paul and an amenity waiting for them. I noticed their check-in is not until 9p but their rooms will be available for them at 5p just in case they decide to check-in early. All rooms are prepaid. A credit card will be required at check-in for incidentals. I have made a notation to their reservation for a late check-out, if needed.

We are doing our best to make their stay memorable!

Next, planning their first dinner. This is key. They need a fabulous meal, but also want a view of the city and the ability to show a video about San Antonio. Tower of the Americas? Ruth's Chris? So many decisions! They settle on Ruth's Chris, in a room called Big Easy III. They can view the convention center expansion site and the Alamodome from a pool deck atop the Grand Hyatt.


When the Raiders trio arrives July 18, San Antonio has a busy schedule for them. It includes a VIP arrival and an extensive tour of the stadium, which includes the note to "point out and discuss planned renovations."

But all that touring makes you hungry. Friday night, they dined at Ruth's Chris, where both the general manager and a "private dining captain" made sure all went well, according to one email from Ruth's Chris to the city. How well did it go? They chowed down on $2005.08 worth of food and $764.41 worth of booze. Check out the receipts below:

Illustration for article titled Ribeyes, Helicopter Rides, And Booze: How San Antonio Wooed The Raiders

This is how you eat more than $2,000 worth of food. Check out those crab cakes! The New York strip! The ribeye! Oh, and four orders of broccoli and one steakhouse salad. Gotta get those vegetables.

Illustration for article titled Ribeyes, Helicopter Rides, And Booze: How San Antonio Wooed The Raiders

And here is the booze! Who is the one person who ordered a Miller Lite? Did nobody tell them the tab would be covered?


Who paid for all this? The emails leave off with the alcohol bill going to Richard Perez with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the food bill going to "Mike."

With full bellies, the tour continued. The emails showed this schedule for Saturday. It included a meeting with the owner of the San Antonio Spurs as well as local billionaire (and former Vikings owner) Red McCombs:

8:00 a.m.—10 a.m. Briefing on San Antonio sports assets and potential sponsors @ Alamodome with Russ Bookbinder, CEO San Antonio Sports Foundation; Robert Marbut Project Manager, Alamodome Campaign at the Grand Hyatt suite

10:30 a.m.—12: noon Meeting with Peter Holt at his home ...

1:00 p.m.—5:00 p.m. Mark Davis will attend Prairie View A&M Hall of Fame event at the Grand Hyatt (Henry Cisneros will accompany)

6:00 p.m. Dinner with Red McCombs

They kept the action coming Sunday, with a breakfast barge and a helicopter tour. Wow. They scheduled fun for their guests right up until they left! Oh, and the helicopter tour also included potential stadium sites.

9:15 a.m.—11:15 a.m. Breakfast barge on Riverwalk—depart from Westin Hotel—River Level outside Zocca Restaurant ...

11:30 a.m.—1:30 p.m. Helicopter tour of San Antonio metropolitan area: potential stadium sites.

2:00 p.m.—4:00 p.m. Lunch and close out briefing

Did it work? After all, San Antonio has had NFL flirtations before only to see them fizzle. Sawaya sent this email to the Raiders' Badain on July 21:

Marc-it was a real pleasure meeting you this weekend. I sincerely hope you had a positive impression of the prospects presented in San Antonio. I did speak to City Manager, Sheryl Sculley, after your send-off meeting yesterday. We are meeting today to determine next steps, and will provide you with whatever follow-up documentation that is necessary to keep our dialogue going. I am making plans to attend your training camp next week in Napa, and will be in touch very soon.


Badain sent this reply:

We really enjoyed the trip, can't express enough appreciation for the hospitality and first class treatment throughout the weekend. I believe I have you to thank for a number of accommodations so thank you for that as well. I've put together a pretty exhaustive list to send to Sheryl, but I imagine a lot of the requests will eventually make their way to you so please feel free to contact me after you receive the list.

Looking forward to continuing dialogue and seeing you in Napa.

Image via Getty


Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`