It was not all that surprising when news finally broke that the Oakland Raiders would be relocating from Oakland to Las Vegas by 2020. Aside from the news having been leaked for some time now, with the city of Oakland trying some last-ditch efforts to keep the Black Hole in the old Coliseum, the Raiders will soon be a feature on the Vegas strip.
In the past year and a half alone, the NFL has seen three franchises uproot their team headquarters, relocating for a brighter and (most important) more profitable future. Is it coincidental that there’s a California connection to all of these moves? On the surface, it appears that the league is just trying to stretch its profits into as many affluent neighbourhoods as possible. The Raiders have been looking to upgrade their digs for quite a while. The Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, established in 1966, was a great option for a multi-sport facility for at least two decades . Yet, in these times where building new stadiums has become similar to an arms race among franchises, Oakland has been on the losing end of the battle for longer than they should.
Owner Mark Davis has shopped the idea of the franchise looking for a new home elsewhere if an agreement was not reached to build a new stadium in Oakland. Las Vegas appeared as the biggest possibility, and it ultimately became the force that finalized the divorce between Oakland and the Raiders.
When you examine NFL clubs relocations, it all seems to come back to the stadiums. The now LA Chargers and Rams both went to the City of Angels after their former homes, San Diego and St. Louis, declined to foot a large-enough portion of the bills for structures that would hardly produce revenue. With the promise of a fancy new stadium in Inglewood, California, nestled in the heart of America’s second-largest market, the two-year inconvenience of finding a home until the stadium is completed is a minor distraction.
While the city of Oakland may be the face on the dartboard at the moment, are they really to blame for losing out on the Raiders? If so, it should only be partially. Organizations and cities have more concerns than getting bodies through a gate and meeting billionaires’ requests for loans for sports teams.
That being said, there are plenty of indirect benefits that come from these new stadiums. You greatly increase your chances of landing at least a single Super Bowl, which tends to create events throughout the host city that allow other businesses and organizations to profit. Concerts, other sporting events (Final Four, college football playoff/bowl games) are all events that stadium owners can host to get out of the red and into the black after the venue is completed. Who could forget the corporate naming rights, one of the easiest tactics to begin the climb out of debt?
Back to the fallout in Oakland. It just doesn’t seem right for a fanbase as unique and as passionate as Raider Nation to have their team ripped away from them once again. It wasn’t a big deal when newer franchises like the Jaguars were being linked with a move to London (still could happen), or when the Rams were being shuttled out of the Edward Jones Dome, which was falling apart more than the team at its lowest point. However, the Rams called LA home earlier in their history. No team has ever called Las Vegas home—the Golden Knights NHL team is set to debut there next season, but the Raiders and the NFL are a much larger spectacle. It’s not as simple as Oakland finding another wagon to hitch itself to. Start cheering for the Niners? NOPE. Feel some empathy for the Chargers? Not a chance. The Rams? Not a chance, either.
How ironic that a place that took pride in calling itself the Black Hole will now find itself in a black void without a team to cheer for in the near future.