Raiders to block off top of Mt. Davis
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ALAMEDA -- Entering the final year of their lease at the O.co Coliseum, and as part of a stadium "capacity adjustment" for the 2013 NFL season, the Raiders are going to block off with tarps some 11,000 seats at the top of Mt. Davis on the east side of the stadium -- sections 335 through 355 -- as well as upper deck sections 300 through 303 on the south side of the original bowl and sections 331 through 334 on the north side.

As a result, stadium capacity will drop from 64,200 to 53,200, and fall below Chicago's Soldier Field for smallest capacity in the NFL. Per NFL rules, the tarps will remain in place throughout the season with no chance of being removed, even if demand is there for extra seats.

"It's not a revenue-generated decision," Raiders CEO Amy Trask told four reporters at the team's complex Wednesday afternoon.

"It's an ongoing commitment on our part to create a vibrant, vibrant gameday environment with a community of season ticket holders. That's the goal -- a community of season ticket holders. We'd like to sell the entire stadium on a season-ticket basis, and continue our efforts to create a family-friendly environment.

"Of course, another reason is we want to continue to provide the entire region with our games, live locally on television."

And with the coming tarps, 4,850 season-ticket holders in those now-blocked-off areas are being relocated to similar yard-line view-point areas on the upper deck on the opposite side of the Coliseum.

A benefit, though, comes with the Raiders also announcing that season tickets for the entire upper deck will now cost $250 for the season (10 games, two exhibitions and eight regular season), meaning season-ticket holders on the upper deck from last season will pay less as season tickets up top in 2012 ranged from $610 to $460 to $360 to $260.

"It did not seem to us to be appropriate to unilaterally relocate people into higher priced seats," Trask said. "It ends up being a tremendous benefit to all the season ticket holders in the third deck."

And, as Trask noted, the highest row of seats in the original bowl is lower than the lowest row of seats on Mt. Davis.

A year ago, the Raiders took advantage of the NFL's "85-percent threshold" rule, meaning they did not have to literally sell out to avoid a blackout in 2012 (a figure Trask said was 56,200 last year). Trask said with the new, lower capacity, and with premium seating "backing out" the total number and Oakland needing to sell 42,300 to show the game locally, the Raiders do not "plan" to utilize the 85-percent rule this season.

They simply have to sell out a smaller-capacity stadium.

"It was a collaborative decision," Trask said. "The analysis was, What's the best tool to accomplish our goals for stadium sellouts for 2013?

Since returning to Oakland in 1995 after 13 seasons in Los Angeles, the Raiders struggled with selling enough tickets to avoid local television blackouts. But in 2011, the Raiders sold out every home game and in 2012, after taking advantage of the 85-percent rule, seven of eight home games were televised locally. The only blackout was against Cleveland on Dec. 2.

In fact, the Raiders, who took over their own ticket sales in 2006, have televised 35 of their 56 home games since, including 15 of their last 16, and since 1995, the Raiders have televised 64 home games and been forced to black out 80 games.

But the biggest thought on observers' minds might be in the Raiders taking a page from their baseball-playing co-tenants and making like the A's by reducing the Coliseum's capacity with tarps.

"This," Trask said, "is the tool we're choosing to use this year to create this vibrant community of season-ticket holders."