PHOENIX, Ariz. — Al Davis dreamed it. His son, Mark Davis, saw that it became a reality: the Raiders are relocating to Las Vegas.
In a bold strike that would have pleased his father, Mark Davis linked three powerful brands — the NFL, Raiders and Las Vegas — on Monday, when 31 of NFL ‘s 32 owners agreed to the Raiders’ request to move to the Entertainment Capital of the World.
They needed 24 affirmative votes. Only Miami voted against the move. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who for years staunchly resisted any league connection to Las Vegas, called the move necessary to stabilize the Raiders franchise.
Al Davis envisioned the Raiders in Las Vegas decades ago and for years regularly held his birthday party in Las Vegas, one of his favorite cities.
Mark Davis put his father’s vision in motion a little over a year ago when he reached out to Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson in hopes of forging a partnership to ensure a stadium.
They teamed up to get a special legislative session to agree to put up $750 million in bonds to help build the $1.9 million stadium and cover expansion of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (a move Adelson resisted because of his huge convention business at The Venetian and The Palazzo). The bonds will be repaid by a Clark County hotel-room tax increase.
Said Mark Davis, “My father 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. I would like to thank Commissioner Goodell, the National Football League and my 31 partners. I would also like to thank Governor Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature for their commitment. Finally, I would like to thank Sheldon Adelson for his vision and leadership, without which this project never would have become a reality.
“The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA. 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.”
Without question, that offer was too tantalizing for the NFL owners to pass up, except for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
“My position today was that we as owners and as a League owe it to fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted,” Ross said in the statement. “I want to wish Mark Davis the Raiders organization the best in Las Vegas.”
The deal had its moments of crisis. In October, Adelson threatened to pull out, saying the Raiders were demanding too much.
In an interview with Reuters, “So I told my people, ‘Tell them I could live with the deal, I could live without the deal. Here’s the way it’s gonna go down. If they don’t want it, bye-bye.”
The breaking point came in late January when Adelson, who turns 84 in August, backed out of what would have been a contribution of at least $650 million. Adelson’s investment banker Goldman Sachs walked away as well.
But Mark Davis and his executive team quickly rallied by securing the financial backing of Bank of America. The Raiders are putting up $500 million, with $200 million of it as a loan from the NFL.
For former Raiders quarterback David Humm, it’s quite a birthday present.
The Las Vegas native, who turns 65 on Sunday, remembers Davis driving him around town and sharing the dream.
“He would have love to have moved the Raiders here. He told me that many times,” former Raiders quarterback David Humm, a Las Vegas native told me in 2014.
“He loved this town,” said Humm, who attended many of Davis’ Las Vegas birthday parties with ex-Raiders. “But there’s no way commissioner Pete Rozelle would allow it because the sports books and the gambling.”
For Oakland, it is the second crushing off-field loss in 35 years. Al Davis moved the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982 after a bitter and costly legal war with the league. They returned to Oakland 12 years later.
But there’s a silver lining for Oakland: the Raiders could win a Super Bowl before getting to Las Vegas. A team on the rise, they were 12-4 under Jack Del Rio last season, their first winning season since going to the Super Bowl in 2002. They lost 48-21 to Tampa Bay and Jon Gruden, who had rebuilt the Raiders into contenders before jumping ship to do the same at Tampa.
The Raiders will spend another season or two in Oakland before the stadium can be built in Las Vegas, although there is a possibility Sam Boyd Stadium could be expanded and serve as the team's temporary home.