Posted: Monday, March 27, 2017 – 12:36 PM
NFL team owners granted conditional approval on Monday to allow the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, the league announced, setting up the third franchise relocation in 14 months.
An NFL Twitter posting featured a Raiders helmet beneath the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign with the caption “The Las Vegas Raiders”.
No vote total was released but the team needed support from at least 24 of 32 club owners to make the move, which follows the St. Louis Rams return to Los Angeles in January 2016 and the San Diego Chargers move to Los Angeles this past January.
Raiders owner Mark Davis said the team would play the 2017 and 2018 seasons in Oakland to complete its stadium lease deal ahead of the expected 2020 opening of a new $1.9 billion (1.75bn euros) domed stadium near the Las Vegas Strip.
“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.
“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.”
But that history and affection was not enough to convince him to stay, even with a last-minute revamped stadium pitch from Oakland city leaders that had pleaded for owners to delay a vote and negotiate with Oakland about staying.
- ‘Greatness in future’ -
“My father (ex-Raiders owner Al Davis) 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.
The Raiders were founded in Oakland in 1960, moved to Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994, then went back to Oakland and now become the second major sports team in the US gambling haven.
Where concerns over gambling ties once shied away pro sports clubs, the allure of new venues and rich sponsors has the NFL following the National Hockey League’s expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next October in a new arena.
“It truly is an exciting time to be from Las Vegas,” said Knights chairman Bill Foley. “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 Chargers departed San Diego for lack of a new stadium and the Raiders did the same, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calling Oakland’s proposal not “a viable solution”.
Nevada lawmakers will put $750 million in taxpayer funding toward the new stadium with the NFL and Raiders chipping in $500.
Bank of America stepped in to provide the remainder of the funding after casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Goldman Sachs pulled out of the project.
- ‘I don’t know how we should feel’ -
The Raiders went 12-4 last season, sparked by new quarterback Derek Carr, after 13 consecutive campaigns without a winning record, but lost to Houston in the first round of the playoffs.
“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Carr said in a Twitter message. “I don’t know how we should feel. I feel the pain of our fans in Oakland. I also see the joy on the faces of our new fans in Las Vegas. As players, we will show up and give everything we have, we will compete and we will do our best to bring a championship to the entire Raider Nation.
“So Las Vegas, you can count on us bringing a piece of Oakland with us and you are getting a tough, loyal and competitive fan base and team. When the time comes, I hope you are ready. For now, it’s about 2017 and our diehards in Oakland.”
© Agence France-Presse