UPDATE (12pm on Thursday, April 28) -- The Raiders issued the following statement:
"The Raiders would like to thank the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee and Mayor Goodman for their time today as we continue to explore options for a permanent stadium solution. We appreciate the support and passion of Raiders fans everywhere."
Raiders owner Mark Davis delivered some big news on Thursday. He stepped to the podium and said, “I’m excited to announce here today the 14th pick in the NFL Draft…”
Davis didn’t finish that sentence. It was far too early to know whom the Raiders would make their first-round pick. Plus, he was in the wrong state.
Davis attended the Southern Nevada Tourism and Infrastructure Committee meeting in Las Vegas, and made a pledge that could impact the organization far more than any single draft pick.
Davis promised to work on relocating the Raiders to a $1.3 billion domed stadium proposal near the Las Vegas Strip if formally approved by the Nevada state legislature, and he backed it up with cash. Davis said Thursday morning that the Raiders would commit $500 million to the project, which also received support from MLS owner and soccer icon David Beckham.
The Raiders’ $500 million was the same originally offered to build an Oakland stadium, a figure that includes a $200 million loan from the NFL’s G4 program.
“Together we can turn the Silver State into the Silver-and-Black State,” Davis said at the SNTIC meeting.
Davis said this commitment was not just a leverage ploy.
“This is not a bargaining chip,” Davis said in a press conference. “…This is real.”
The proposed Las Vegas stadium is backed by some powerful folks. Las Vegas Sands Corp. is pushing this project in partnership with Ed Roski’s Majestic Realty. Roski long tried to build a Los Angeles NFL stadium in the City of Industry.
A total of $650 million would come from private sources, with the rest from the public via $50 million annual blocks from taxes on tourists.
The Las Vegas stadium proposal could house the Raiders, the UNLV football team, concerts and other large sporting events.
Davis’ backing is key to the stadium’s viability.
"We have made a commitment to Las Vegas and that's where it stands,” Davis said, via ESPN. “If Las Vegas can come through ... we'll be the Las Vegas Raiders."
Las Vegas is the country’s No. 41 media market with a local fan base far smaller than the Bay Area. Las Vegas is a tourist hub drawing outsiders to town with legalized gambling and lavish resorts. Raiders fans are a transient group, and Davis’ hope is that fans follow the team to a possible new locale.
“Las Vegas would not just be getting a football team,” Davis said. “They would be getting everyone who has worn the silver and black for the last 56 years.”
The SNTIC cannot approve a stadium project. It can be expected to make a recommendation to the state legislature. The Nevada State Legislature isn't scheduled to meet until Feb. 2017, though stadium proponents said Thursday they hoped to arrange a special August meeting vote on public funding for this project.
A new Raiders locale requires approval from 24 NFL owners. Any relocation must be validated with a three-quarters approval vote of the membership, something that isn’t guaranteed given the league’s aversion to direct association with legalized gambling. Las Vegas hasn’t been considered a viable market for that reason, though there is some sentiment among owners willing to look past the gambling connection.
“I wouldn’t phrase it by saying there won’t be any problems,” Davis said in a press conference. “I would say that we would make them an offer they can’t refuse.”
Davis has been looking for a long-term stadium solution for year. He partnered with the Chargers on a stadium proposal in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, but lost out to the Rams’ Inglewood project.
The Raiders have an opportunity to join the Rams in Inglewood if the Chargers, who have higher L.A. priority, decided to stay in San Diego.
Davis seems to prefer the Las Vegas market and greater control on stadium design – he values ingress, egress and a quality tailgating environment -- and outside revenue.
The Raiders signed a one-year lease extension with Oakland-Alameda Coliseum for 2016, with two one-year lease extensions built in. There has been little to no progress trying to build a new facility in the East Bay. Team and public officials seem stuck over the cost of land on the Coliseum site and where the MLB’s Oakland Athletics fit into a new development. The A’s also play at the Oakland Coliseum.
UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium is not a viable interim NFL stadium site, so the team could remain in Oakland under their recently approved lease extension options while a new Las Vegas Stadium is built. Davis did say the Raiders would play an exhibition game at Sam Boyd Stadium during that time.