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PHOENIX — With the phrase, “Our owners approved overwhelmingly the move,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it official, the Oakland Raiders will become the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 upon completion of the new stadium being built in the “entertainment capital of the world.”
Few will argue with that last quote, but it was Raiders owner Mark Davis who anointed Las Vegas with that title saying, “My father used to say the greatness of the Raiders is in its future.
“The opportunity to build a world class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is one opportunity that will give us the ability to achieve that future.”
Goodell, Texans owner Bob McNair, Chairman of the Finance Committee, and the Steelers' Art Rooney II, Chairman of the Stadium Committee, all went to great lengths to explain their exhaustive efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland before being forced to move on to Vegas.
The commissioner explained, “We work very hard to avoid the relocation of a franchise and that means exhausting our options and doing everything we can.
”In this instance and in this market as you know there has been a stadium situation that has been addressed and both parties have agreed that it’s not going to be relieved for the long term in the best interests of the team or the community.
“We believe we and the Raiders have worked earnestly with Oakland for over a decade to try and find that viable option.”
Goodell also pointed out the 32 owners offered to contribute $100 million more to help finance a stadium in Oakland than they had in any other market, but to no avail.
McNair said, “We’ve worked for probably two years now, not just the last nine months to try and find a solution for the Raiders and of course our first choice was to try and find an answer in Oakland.
“Unfortunately we were unable to do that and the plan that the Raiders now have to be in Nevada and Las Vegas is a very sound plan, one that we’ve looked at very carefully and it meets all of our standards and financial conditions.
“So we’re delighted for the Raiders, we think this will lead to a more stable franchise and that’s the goal of all of us in the league is to have 32 clubs that are all strong.”
Some have believed over the past couple of years that McNair might have been an important voice in a group of owners who would object to Vegas as an NFL city because it is also the legalized sports betting capital of the world, but there were no mentions of that concern by the commissioner or any of the three owners who spoke at the press conference announcing the move, nor were there any questions on that topic from the media.
Rooney’s take was, “As the commissioner said we appreciate the efforts of (Oakland) Mayor (Libby) Schaaf’s efforts to try and put something on the table.”
“My own personal opinion is that the presence of the baseball team (Oakland Athletics) on that site was a complication that they really couldn’t find a way to work around.”
Davis was clear when asked what the last straw was making it clear to him a deal could not be reached in Oakland.
“I believe it turned during the L.A. part where before the vote for Los Angeles, Oakland had an opportunity to come in and make a presentation to the league and they came in with a five-page piece of paper that had nothing to do with anything.
“They claimed that they would wait for us to lose the vote and then come back and then they’d have all the leverage.
“We lost the vote and then came back and we negotiated a one-year lease with the two years of options and talked about getting together and talking about a long term future together.
“A week later I got a phone call from one of the county board supervisors telling me ‘Mark, I’m sorry but the lease that we just negotiated, the three years of leases are not going to be valid and we’re going to raise the rate three times on you.
“At that point we ended up signing that lease anyway but we decided we had to start looking elsewhere to see if we could find a long term solution.”
While Davis announced his club’s move to Vegas almost a year ago, it was thought to be problematic because the principle financing was originally coming from Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a man who accumulated his billion dollar fortune in the gambling business and was not thought to be welcome in the NFL owners circle.
When Adelson dropped out of the deal following a dispute with Davis over terms, and Goldman Sachs pulled additional financing due to Adelson’s departure, the move appeared to be in serious jeopardy.
But Bank of America stepped into the void with a $750 million investment in the stadium plan and when the NFL owners agreed to a relocation fee from Davis that is reportedly slightly more than just half what the Rams and Chargers recently paid to move to Los Angeles, the deal was all but secured.
With his team’s move to Las Vegas now formally approved, the only hurdle remaining for Davis is the new Nevada stadium, which will not be ready for play at the earliest before the 2020 season, and Davis only has guarantees to remain in Oakland through 2018.
Davis indicated he will talk to the city of Oakland about a deal for 2019 but will also begin to look for other options for that one season in the event a deal cannot be reached.
Will the legendary “Raider Nation” follow the club to Las Vegas? That remains to be seen.
What we know for now is one of the longest running sagas in the history of the modern era of the NFL has come to an end with a Davis-owned franchise now destined for a permanent home in the Nevada desert.