By Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan)
Above, listen to me dissect the move on-air on my sports talk radio show 60 Minute Overtime (#60MinOT), with special guest, Tom Barton, host of HeatWave Sports on 1340 Fox Sports Las Vegas.
After the Rams left St. Louis for the more provocative Los Angeles last season, the Raiders are pondering a relocation from Oakland to Sin City Las Vegas. With a trademark for the name “Las Vegas Raiders” already granted and three-dimensional stadium iterations already constructed, their relocation is inevitable. Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, is in favor of keeping the Raiders in the Oakland market. However, he has virtually no say in the matter. A final vote from the NFL owners is expected in January’s owners meetings before this season’s Super Bowl. Several owners, including Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys) and Robert Kraft (New England Patriots), have openly supported the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. The Raiders would need a 75% ‘yes’ vote from the owners; 24 to be exact.
Each major issue, debunked:
Nevada plans to build a $1.9 billion stadium with a dome that would hold 65,000 seats. Sources of financing approximations:
$750 million: Public money from the hotel surcharge
$500 million: Raiders majority owner Mark Davis
$250 million: NFL loans, seat licenses, + other franchise funds
$650 million: Sheldon Adelson (an 83-year-old casino magnate)
It is no secret that this state-of-the-art stadium will require $750 million in public funds, but, as demonstrated above, public funding of new stadiums is not a rarity. Las Vegas is actually lessening the blow of taxpayer money by capitalizing on the number one aspect of its economy: international tourism. Nevada legislators have created an extremely optimistic financing formula contingent upon a hotel room surcharge. The formula assumes that one third of the 65,000 fans at any game, including during the preseason, will be tourists who stay in a hotel for 3.2 days.
There are concerns over Adelson’s involvement in the project. Tom Barton explains: “He is a mega-rich guy (billionaire). He literally owns Las Vegas…. He does have pull. You talked about these NFL owners in Kraft and Jones having pull? Sheldon Alderson could buy and sell all of them. Which gives him more pull. The minute his name was thrown into the ring, you have to take things seriously. This is a guy that, when he wants something, he gets it done. In a pond full of giant fish, he’s the biggest fish. He’s not a football fan, he just wants a team there becuase it’ll help the city”. It has been reported that Adelson is not even looking to have season tickets for Raiders games, further perpetuating the fact that he is, indeed, an unbiased party.
2. Fan base
It is true that only 1 in 4 Nevadans were actually born in the state (all others are ‘transplants’ from other states). How does that translate to team loyalty? Barton explains: “Las Vegas is a transient city. There are no real las vegas-ans. Everyone is from somewhere else. You might adopt that team, you might not. For me, it is a crapshoot”. Kris Lanzer, Las Vegas transplant by way of Washington, is a diehard Seattle Seahawks fan. As a 12th man, Lanzer travels home to see the Seahawks once a year (his brother is a season ticket holder) and drives approximately 4 hours to Phoenix see the Seahawks take on their NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals. Lanzer also now has Los Angeles “on [his] horizon”. Being that L.A. is as “equidistant” from Las Vegas as Phoenix, Lanzer would not rule out making a trip to see a Rams/Seahawks game. The Rams are another NFC West division rival.
With the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas imminent, Lanzer has thought hard about loyalty to the Seahawks. “I probably would eventually end up rooting for them. My #1 team will always be the Seahawks… I’d definitely root for [the Raiders] because they’re my hometown team, but I’m not sure I’d root for them right away…”. Although he would not purchase season tickets, he estimates that he would attended 1-2 Raiders games a year “because they’re here and [he] like[s] the sport”.
True, the Raiders will no longer be playing in Oakland, California. Instead, they will be playing in Las Vegas, Nevada: an 8.5 hour drive from Oakland and a 1 hour and 20 minute flight. Based on the 3.2 day stay predicted by the Nevada legislators, die-hard Raiders fans can make a weekend trip to see their team play. It wouldn’t be impossible. Furthermore: would you want to take a weekend trip to Vegas as an excuse to see your team play? I know I would. Lanzer echoes my sentiment “Vegas is a tourist spot. A destination for people to circle on their calendars when their team is playing here”. “That is precisely the reason why the team would work so well here”, summarizes Christina Cassaro, Las Vegas native and graphic designer.
“For the Raiders to succeed in Vegas, they would not only have to be an NFL franchise with the backing of the casinos, they would also have to be really good” adds Barton.
Currently, the Raiders are a great
product: it would be a different story if they were terrible. They are 7-2, coming off a resounding victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos on the national, Sunday Night Football stage, and are sitting atop the leaderboard in the AFC West. They have just prioritized a massive new deal to Captain Derek Carr to the tune of 5-years, $123 million, reportedly. They will have STABILITY at the quarterback position and an inevitable increase in Carr’s #4 jersey sales because of it. The Raiders are an easy team to like.
3. Game Day Attendance
In fact, current Oakland Raiders fans hardly come out to games to see their team play in their current home. In 2015, the Raiders had the third worst average attendance in the NFL! The worst average attendance in 2015 was for the Rams, who have already relocated from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Brian Leonard, former St. Louis Rams Running Back told me (at 3:55 below) “We really didn’t sell out our games … it was the best show on turf”.
The Rams, in 2016, have set a record for preseason attendance and are exceeding attendance expectations throughout this regular season despite being one of the worst teams in the league (3-5, third in NFC West ahead of the lowly 49ers). This could only be attributed to their new market of Los Angeles.
4. Comparing Oakland’s facility to Las Vegas’
Simply put: there is no comparison. How could one begin to compare a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility in Las Vegas to the Black Toilet bowl in Oakland? “The stadium is a joke. Its’a bad baseball stadium, and its a worse football stadium…. It’s a garbage stadium” states Barton. Lanzer adds “Where they play in Oakland is unacceptable in today’s league. It’s just not a functional property. It’s a defunct property”.
Two San Diego Chargers players (who will remain anonymous) told me that it is the worst stadium in which to play in the entire NFL. It is not because of the rivalry and the Black Hole fanbase. Oakland Alameda Coliseum, which the Raiders currently share with the MLB’s Athletics, is not functional.
It easily wins the title of worst stadium in not one, but two sports. The construction of “Mount Davis”, an addition of the highest set of seats in professional sports , blocks the view of the only charm the Coliseum had left: The Berkley Hills. Mount Davis is a sarcastic term for those seats, named after the patriarch of the Raiders franchise, Al Davis. The seats, by and large, remain unsold during both the NFL and the MLB seasons.
Sewage issues, both when there are events held there and when there are not, are well-documented. One of the more recent episodes was on May 21, 2016, when sewage from the visiting clubhouses’ toilets backed up into the visitors’ dugout.
There’s a little issue with the restroom in the visiting dugout… pic.twitter.com/bmjEaFfqe3
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) May 21, 2016
In another outrageous turn of events, in 2013, the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners were both forced to use the Raiders’ lockerr oom post-game due to an intense backup of sewage that spewed into both clubhouses. “Make sure everybody finds out about this sewage thing,” Oakland starter A.J. Griffin said. “We need to get a new stadium”.
5. Player Distractions
When players sign on to play in markets such as Miami, a cause for concern for everyone is the level of distractions that city has to offer. “They’re not talking about putting the stadium in Henderson, which is a nice area, or Green Valley. It’s right on The Strip! … Las Vegas will have a lot of distractions” confirms Barton. The saying exists: “You need a special player to play in ___”. Not everyone is cut out to play in particular cities (i.e. AJ Burnett with the Yankees). Special players thrive in certain cities (think: Derek Jeter with the Yankees). With the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, a prototypical “Las Vegas” player profile will emerge with it. There may be some growing pains, but with a franchise QB and Captain in Derek Carr, the organization and those surrounding it should not be concerned.
John Madden, Raiders coach ’69-’78 explains it best:“They don’t have an alternative. I mean, that’s the problem. They can’t continue to play in that stadium. They need a new stadium. And they can’t get one put together in Oakland. The L.A. thing didn’t work out, which, I’m kind of glad about. I don’t think they belonged in L.A. … So then, Las Vegas stepped up and offered that they would build a stadium. So that’s where they had to go. If it were a decision – Do you want to play in Oakland or do you want to play in Las Vegas – we would all say ‘we want you to play in Oakland.’ And Mark Davis, who’s making the decision, would say he’d wants to play in Oakland. But there is no Oakland here.”
7. Sports gambling: A Conflict of Interest?
For this, an impassioned Barton explains, in its entirety: “Anybody, I mean anybody, that believes that sports gambling would have any effect on the hometown team in Las Vegas just isn’t paying attention. They’re just stupid. There is an injury report in the paper today (Sunday). Why? Because there’s gambling. In everybodys’ newspapers and on everyone’s TVs, they show the point spread. Why? Because there’s gambling. The NFL wants to make believe gambling doesn’t exist. But it does, and its there. It’s not going to have an impact one way or another. Nobody cares one way or the other. That’s just a reason to make people feel good…. If you look at the NFL, by the way, the Maras were involved in gambling, the Pittsburgh Steelers, basically represented as one of the finest ownership groups in all of sports: built their enterprise on gambling. That’s where that old money came from….. The owners don’t care. The NFL really doesnt care, but they have to sound like they care. They have to act like it matters. The gambling aspect will never, ever be a make or break for a team moving to vegas. If the money is right, they’ll move.”
8. Future Plans
Imagine a Super Bowl, the biggest event in football taking place in Las Vegas, the biggest party city on the planet? Many stadiums are “built” to house the Big Game, i.e. AT&T stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys (capacity: 80,000). The Las Vegas Raiders stadium is in contention, even with a projected capacity of 65,000. Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, just hosted Super Bowl 50 (capacity of 68,5000, expandable to 75,000 for large events such as the SB). Hosting a Super Bowl benefits the host city’s economy. When University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona (home of the Cardinals) hosted Super Bowl 49, there was a gross economic impact entire state to the tune of $719 million dollars! That is a spike that Nevada would surely not want to pass up.
The city of Las Vegas, the state of Nevada (tourists and residents alike) are saving the Raiders franchise and, in fact, lifting it up. “When this was first announced, we did an interview with people on the city council that mentioned it about a year ago. As it starts to roll, and things start to progress … things just start building: either this is one great ploy by Mark Davis to get a new stadium built in Oakland, or this is reality. I tend to believe this is reality. As Barton told me: “The Raiders will take over that town like that town has never seen… If you took a walk through the casino, you would already see people wearing Las Vegas Raiders t-shirts. That’s how much people want it”. If you build it, they will come.
For more of Tom Barton’s work, please visit TomBartonSports.com.