The Raiders are getting closer to moving to Las Vegas — or so Thursday night’s news that developers are zeroing in on a location for a new stadium might have you believe. This is all well and good, except for the fact that fewer and fewer parties actually seem to want the Raiders to go through with the move at this point. Locals are unamused; the city government has waffled; the NFL may have other ideas. Even the franchise’s front office, which has tripped over itself trying to prove the sincerity of its Sin City intentions (sample quote: “This is not a pawn in a game. We are serious”), seems to be looking upon the prospect rather darkly these days.
So who, then, still wants the Raiders to move to Las Vegas? Let’s break it down.
Las Vegas: Not Really
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The longer that Vegas taxpayers have had to think about assisting the Raiders with the construction of a new stadium, the less enthusiastic they’ve become. Fifty-five percent of Clark County voters say they now oppose using taxpayer funds to build the Raiders a stadium, according to a new poll from KTNV-TV 13 Action News and Rasmussen Reports.
This month, the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee revised its estimate of how much a new Raiders stadium would cost: It ballooned to between $1.7 billion and $2.1 billion, up from the previous mark of $1.4 billion, thanks to land acquisition and stadium roofing costs.
Even the local government has toned down its enthusiasm: While the initial proposal included a public contribution of $750 million for a new Raiders stadium — which would make it the largest-ever taxpayer supplement for an NFL stadium — local officials, some of whom are up for reelection this year, have since suggested an alternative plan that would only (and let’s take a moment to recognize that this is a liberal use of the word “only”) commit taxpayers to a $550 million contribution.
The Raiders: Maybe Not
That $200 million gap between the initial proposal and the most recent one has not been well received by Raiders brass. When news broke that the local government was considering dialing back its commitment to a new stadium, Raiders principal owner Mark Davis, who has pledged $500 million of team money toward the move, made the rounds saying there was no way a deal could happen without additional public support. Sure, Davis could be bluffing: If the Raiders do in fact want to move, as has previously been indicated, it’s probably in their best interest to appear in desperate need of some kind soul (or a shiny new tax) to provide a cash infusion. But Davis is, well, if not exactly poor, at least about as un-rich as NFL owners come, so the idea that the Raiders might not have the (extra) cash to shore up a more expensive proposal isn’t all that farfetched.
The NFL: Ehhh …
The last time we checked in with the NFL on this front, commissioner Roger Goodell was urging Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf to hear out a proposal from a potential ownership group that sought to keep the team in its current city. According to a report from last week, that group, led by Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, offered Davis $300 million toward a new stadium in exchange for a 20 percent ownership stake, which, if accepted, would bring about the league’s first African American team owners. (Other rumors have pegged the group’s offer between $200 million and $400 million.) Earlier this month, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which oversees the Oakland Coliseum site (where the present stadium/concrete mausoleum is located, and where a new facility would likely be built), voted unanimously to begin negotiations with the Lott group.
Goodell looking favorably upon such a deal doesn’t necessarily mean that the NFL is committed to keeping the Raiders in the Bay Area. The league has claimed that it’s agnostic in regard to whether the team stays in Oakland or moves to Las Vegas or Los Angeles. In March, Goodell signaled his approval of the Vegas talks: “Mark Davis is appropriately looking at all his alternatives. They need to evaluate those alternatives.” But Goodell also stressed that he hoped Oakland would remain an option (read: offer up huge sums of taxpayer money for a new stadium, something Schaaf has repeatedly refused to do) and that it would be ideal to “avoid any relocation to start with.” In May, Goodell doubled down on Oakland: “We believe in that market.”
It would be a reasonable assumption that there aren’t a lot of people in Oakland who want to say goodbye to a team that finally looks (shhhhh) possibly pretty good. The Raiders went 7–9 last season; with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Khalil Mack, and the rest of a young core, fans finally have something positive to twirl their flails about.
Sheldon Adelson: Yes!
Ding ding ding ding ding! Adelson — billionaire, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, recent buyer of a Vegas newspaper that immediately ended critical coverage of Adelson’s real estate empire, and noted creator of the image of Ted Cruz haggling with a Republican National Convention suite bouncer — still wants the Raiders to move to Vegas.
This week, Las Vegas Sands executive Andy Abboud waved away residents’ concerns about using taxpayer money, saying they would come around when they learned how the plan was structured. In a prior attempt to soothe the concerns of locals, he said, “I know there’s cynicism about subsidizing a billionaire, but you’re not.” OK.
Hold on to your seat, but could the Raiders’ Vegas flirtation really have been the farce that we thought it was all along: namely, an elaborate ploy to generate a better offer in Oakland? It sure looks that way.