First, the Oakland Raiders decided to move to Las Vegas.
They got the NFL to sign off on the deal and wheels began turning on building a new $2 billion dollar state-of-the-art stadium on 62 acres at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip — less than a mile from the runways of McCarran International Airport. (If you’ve ever been to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, you’ll know that the Raiders will feel right at home with the smell of jet fuel in the air).
But there has always been this one tiny little problem: the new stadium under the landing pattern at McCarran won’t be ready until 2020 — that is, if everything goes according to plan — and the Raiders’ lease at the Coliseum only extended through the 2018 season.
That leaves the Raiders homeless for 2019.
Normally, this would be the kind of thing you’d expect an NFL team to have figured out before they started digging holes in prime Las Vegas real estate. But then again, we’re talking about the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders. They can’t even stop an enterprising Kansas City Chiefs fan from burying a Chiefs Kingdom flag underneath the site of their new stadium.
As the final month of the 2018 NFL season got underway, the Raiders owner Mark Davis still hadn’t made arrangements for a place for the team to play their home games in 2019. Davis presumably felt that there was still plenty of time to work out a deal with the city of Oakland to stay in the Coliseum for another season — something that he had said the Raiders planned to do when the NFL approved the deal 21 months earlier.
The city, however, had a different idea. In early December, Oakland filed an antitrust suit against the Raiders and the NFL.
“The Raiders’ illegal move lines the pockets of NFL owners and sticks Oakland, its residents, taxpayers and dedicated fans with the bill,” said a statement from Oakland city attorney Barbara Parker. “The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the defendants accountable and help to compensate Oakland for the damages the defendants’ unlawful actions have caused and will cause to the people of Oakland.”
That’s the kind of thing you might say when you want any ongoing negotiations to break down — and it worked. The Raiders walked away from the table, which began a wild string of reports about where the Raiders might play in 2019.
San Diego, California, San Antonio, Texas and Reno, Nevada were mentioned as possible cities where the Raiders might find a temporary home.
Officials in Santa Clara, California — home of Levis Stadium, where the San Francisco 49ers play — were reported to be working out plans to share their facility with the Raiders, but apparently the Raiders weren’t interested.
In late December, there was a report that other NFL owners were suggesting to Davis that the Raiders play their home games in London.
Less than three weeks ago, there was a report that the Raiders had made a deal to use San Francisco’s Oracle Park — home field of the San Francisco Giants — but that deal evaporated as quickly as it appeared. The 49ers — who under NFL rules, can keep any other team from playing within their territory — were reported to be unwilling to approve the deal, and San Francisco officials made it clear they didn’t want the Raiders playing there.
Simultaneously, another wild proposal surfaced — this one that the Raiders share their home schedule between stadiums in Tucson, Arizona and Birmingham, Alabama. It is still unclear whether the two gentlemen from Tucson and Birmingham who proposed that scheme were actually speaking on behalf of their respective cities.
But you still have to love the idea of the Ala-zona Raiders.
Right about the same time, the Raiders and the city of Oakland were apparently getting back to the negotiating table. On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the two sides have solved “all the major issues,” and are finalizing an agreement where the Raiders will lease the Coliseum for $7.5 million in 2019, and $10.5 million in 2020 if the stadium in Las Vegas isn’t completed on time.
If those figures are accurate, that’s quite an achievement for Oakland. In a November ESPN interview, Davis balked at the idea of even paying $5 million as yearly rent in the Coliseum, since the city was threatening to sue the Raiders.
“Emotionally, I would say, why would I give them $3 (million), $4 (million), $5 million in rent that they’re going to turn around and use to sue me?” Davis told ESPN. “But, at the same time, if they’ll have us, I can’t turn on the fans. I can’t do it. And this is terrible negotiating I’m doing now. I’m going to get killed. But that’s just the way I am.”
The Chronicle’s report said that an announcement of the new lease could be made this week or next, and quoted Coliseum Authority board member Chris Dobbins as saying that there is a “better than 50-50 shot” the deal will be completed.
Those are better odds than you can usually get in Las Vegas.
If they hold, this 90-day carnival sideshow will come to an end right where it started: in Oakland’s Black Hole.