The Las Vegas Raiders franchise is officially in the works. After months of speculation, Mark Davis, the owner of the storied California football team, has filed paperwork to relocate from Oakland to Sin City.
Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak broke the news in a tweet. The NFL confirmed the development on its website.
This weekend, the playoffs come down to the AFC and NFC championship games, but most of the chatter will be regarding Davis’ wishes to remove the Raiders from the Bay Area in favor of the sports betting capital of the United States. With his filing complete, a vote of the league’s 32 owners is expected to take place in March.
Professional sports leagues have long discouraged teams from trying to move to Vegas due to the city’s love of gambling. However, that opinion has changed in the eyes of many of the Big Four’s (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) leaders.
Las Vegas received word last June that it had won its first major professional sports team with an NHL expansion team. Now, it’s poised for its second.
“We’re a major league city. We deserve major league sports,” Sisolak said when the NHL team was announced.
First and a Mile
Davis filing relocation paperwork is only the first official step in moving the organization to the desert. Plenty of details still need to be worked out, and even if the move eventually occurs, his Raiders will likely continue playing in Oakland for at least the next three years.
The most pressing issue in Vegas is of course the stadium. Though public funding for a $1.9 billion facility located near the Strip was seemingly in place, there’s rumors circulating that billionaire Sheldon Adelson wants partial ownership of the team in exchange for his $650 million pledge to the project.
Dubbed a “legacy project” by those close to Adelson, the speculation is that he wants to bestow stake in an NFL team to his children and grandchildren. NFL rules bar anyone invested in the casino business from owning a franchise.
Last fall, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R) signed a bill to provide $750 million to the stadium via hotel occupancy taxes generated in Clark County. Davis would fund the remaining $500 million.
Adelson would then rent out the stadium to the Raiders, but is ready to back out if his demands aren’t met. “A guy in my position doesn’t need anything,” Adelson said recently.
The Raiders is one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. Formed in 1960 in the American Football League, Al Davis became the coach in 1963 and would go on to assume majority ownership.
Davis helped lead the AFL and NFL merger, and became one of the most influential, as well as one of the most respected, executives in the game.
Aside from playing in Los Angeles between 1982 and 1994, the Raiders have called Oakland home for decades. Moving to Vegas won’t be well received by many fans, especially after the team just enjoyed a wildly successful regular season.
If the national public opinion is that the team should stay put, the three-fourths required support from the 32 owners might not be certain.