Much to the delight of Las Vegas football fans and city officials, the Oakland Raiders became the second major professional sports team to decide to make the eventual move to southern Nevada this year.
The NFL team joined the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights in Southern Nevada, though its road to the Strip was a lot bumpier than the one the hockey organization had to navigate.
The idea of leaving the Bay Area came as early as 2009 as the team was trying to get a new stadium built but was having little success. Two years later Al Davis died and his son Mark took control of the team.
He had no more luck getting Oakland to build a facility than his father did and in 2013 when the lease expired he started exploring alternatives to the Oakland Coliseum. Several possibilities and rumors started popping up periodically and included everything from sharing Levi Stadium with the San Francisco 49ers to being courted by San Antonio.
Vegas Makes its Case
In 2015 the Raiders plan to return to the Los Angeles market fell through when the NFL rejected their relocation request. The Rams and the Chargers were picked to come to the Southern California market.
The whispers of the Raiders having interest in Sin City got louder and then became deafening when Davis met with Las Vegas Sands Owner Sheldon Adelson in January 2016 about getting his financial backing for a new 65,000 seat stadium. The casino magnate agreed and said he would put up $150 million of the then proposed $1.4 billion cost. He later increased that amount to $650 million. Davis would provide $500 million from a Goldman Sachs loan and a hotel tax would fund the rest.
Slowly owners of other NFL organizations began to warm to the idea of a football team in a town that offered sportsbetting. Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, and Stan Kroenke, owners of the Cowboys, Patriots, and the now-Los Angeles Rams, all publicly declared their support for the Raiders move from Oakland.
One person who didn’t like the idea was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He was a staunch opponent of sportsbetting and sternly voiced his opposition to the plan.
Setback, Then Success
By January of 2017 it looked like Goodell might get his wish. Adelson pulled out of the project taking his pledge of $650 million with him. Goldman Sachs then announced they were pulling its financing for Davis’ $500 million. Suddenly Davis was without more than half of the funds for the now budgeted $1.9 billion stadium and the deal was in danger of falling apart.
It took two months but Davis found another backer, getting Bank of America to pony up Adelson’s share and his loan at the beginning of March. The only detail left was approval by the owners. That happened three weeks later at the owners meeting in Phoenix as they voted 31-1 in favor of the move with only Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross dissenting.
The Raiders would move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season and Davis was exuberant after the decision.
“My father used to say that the greatness of the Raiders was in its future,” Davis said. “The opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world will give us the opportunity to achieve that greatness.”