The Raiders are off to Las Vegas, but—not just yet. Construction has not yet begun on their fancy new stadium, financed with $750 million in taxpayer money, and it won’t be ready for action until 2020. That leaves three seasons, and for at least one of them—probably more—they’ll have to find somewhere that’s not Oakland.
Owner Mark Davis expressed his preference to remain in the Coliseum as long as he’s able.
“We have two more years of lease options for Oakland right now,” Davis said. “If the fans would like us to stay there, we’d love to be there for that and possibly talk to them about extending it for maybe 2019 as well, and try to bring a championship back to Oakland.”
That “if the fans want us” bit is important. Oakland fans have responded understandably poorly to being jerked around for years, and with relocation a done deal, there’s no reason to think the team’s already-poor attendance won’t nosedive. That’s what happened when the Oilers moved to Tennessee: They had planned to remain in Houston for two seasons while their stadium in Nashville was being constructed, but fan support cratered so hard, they moved after just one year.
The Raiders have two one-year lease options at the Coliseum, and with the start 2017 season only five months away, it feels safe to say they’ll remain in Oakland this year. Not that they’re particularly welcome.
“I would say to you with the highest level of confidence, my opinion and recommendation and that of my board members — I don’t believe there is any appetite for a third season (in Oakland),” Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority executive director Scott McKibben told USA TODAY Sports.
“It’s actually financially to our benefit if they didn’t exercise the options and play here even in the two years they’ve got (in 2017 and 2018),” McKibben added.
City Councilmember Larry Reid said “I don’t want them here,” and revealed he’s spoken with city attorneys to see if there’s any legal method to void the lease and kick out the Raiders early.
One way or another, the Raiders are going to need somewhere temporary to play. It’s all speculation at this point, but there are a number of options:
The 49ers’ stadium in Santa Clara. Niners CEO Jed York said this week he’d be open to the idea of sharing a stadium for a year if the NFL and Mark Davis were interested.
Cal’s Memorial Stadium. If Davis wants to stay in the East Bay, and isn’t at the Coliseum, Berkeley is probably his only option. It wouldn’t solve the problem of getting away from disgruntled and uninterested Raiders fans, but logistically it’d be the easiest solution.
The Giants’ stadium in San Francisco. The idea was raised here, and the ballpark did host Cal for an entire season while their home stadium was being renovated in 2011. A long shot, but we’ll see how desperate Davis gets.
The Alamodome in San Antonio. A cosmically appropriate venue. San Antonio was the Raiders’ threat of choice in trying to squeeze a new stadium out of Oakland, long before L.A. or Vegas were ever valid options, and fans there are still hungry for a team of their own. What could be more absurd for everyone involved than Davis spending an itinerant season taunting a city his family only ever saw as leverage? It’s a real possibility.
The Chargers’ old stadium in San Diego. Raised as an option here. And why not? NFL relocation is basically musical chairs.
UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. If I had to put my money on the Raiders playing anywhere in 2019, it’d be here. The NFL has already done on-site studies of the 35,000-seat stadium’s viability as a temporary home for the Raiders, according to CBS Sports. And a UNLV spokesperson told USA Today that “it is possible and has been discussed as a potential solution.”
The one hang-up is that Mark Davis doesn’t want this. He said he plans to move to Vegas only in 2020, and only into the new stadium. “I want to move in there clean,” he said. So it’s really the perfect solution, then: an anticlimactic, disappointing debut that’ll be unsatisfying for everyone, especially Davis. Count on it happening in 2018, after no one turns out for games in Oakland this season.