Just 15 months ago, there were no NFL teams in Los Angeles or Las Vegas. It’s now March 2017, and the Los Angeles Rams just completed their first season back in the City of Angels, while the Los Angeles Chargers are preparing to play their first season at the snug StubHub Center in Carson. And on Monday afternoon, the Oakland Raiders have announced they will be relocating the franchise to Las Vegas by the 2020 season.
NFL franchises have experienced a violent rush of momentum in relocating over the past year and a half. Thirty-two league owners gathered on Monday to vote on the Raiders’ proposal for a relocation to Las Vegas. Needing 24 votes to authorize the relocation, the Raiders received a 31-1 vote in favor of the team moving to the Sin City.
This will be the second time the Raiders have departed from the city of Oakland (they left in 1982 for Los Angeles before returning in 1995). While the relocation has been approved, the Raiders will play two more seasons in the Bay Area before making the transition to Las Vegas.
Issues with acquiring a new stadium in Oakland were one of the main factors which may have led to the Raiders’ relocation. When Oakland wasn’t able to deliver on a new stadium, owner Mark Davis began intensifying relocation efforts.
When franchise relocation strikes, agony and heartbreak from the fanbase do, too. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr took to Twitter to tend to the many Raider faithful in Oakland who had just received the news that they would be losing their beloved franchise.
“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Carr said. “I don’t know how we should feel. I feel the pain of our fans in Oakland. I also see the joy on the faces of our new fans in Las Vegas. While I am from California and would have loved playing in Oakland my whole career, I understand the business side of the NFL.”
The Vegas Strip hosted professional football from the short-lived AFL and XFL in the early 2000s, but the teams faded away into nonexistence. When the Raiders make the trek to Vegas in the coming years, they will add a new dynamic which the city has never possessed — an NFL franchise.
If you want to talk about momentum, Las Vegas is its epitome in the sports world. One year ago, Las Vegas was home to zero professional sports franchises (no, I’m not counting the Las Vegas 51s, a minor league baseball team). Now Vegas is home to the Golden Knights, an expansion NHL franchise slated to begin competing this next season — and the Raiders, a historically significant NFL franchise, are on the way.
From my perspective, the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas is a smart one across the board.
One of the long-lasting arguments against installing professional sports in Las Vegas was the hyperactive gambling market in the city. We should find it ironic that the two sports commissioners most adamantly opposed to gambling (NFL commisioner Roger Goodell and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) were the first two commissioners to settle teams in Las Vegas. While intensified gambling could draw some issues for the teams, I believe Vegas will profit exponentially from the presence of a professional football team.
Just think about those spiffy bundle deals that you know the casinos and hotels on the Vegas Strip are already conjuring up. The hotels, bars, clubs and lounges will be booming on any weekend during which the Raiders are in town playing on their home turf. For tourists traveling to Vegas to watch their team take on the Raiders, a game weekend will be at least a multiple-day affair which will likely time spent at all the resorts and venues Vegas has to offer. I’d project that the Sin City is set to become the “win city” economically with the relocation of the Raiders.
Many have also noted that the Raiders will be making a move from Oakland, the No. 6 television market nationally, to Las Vegas, which is the No. 40 TV market. With the boom of social media and big television deals, it could be argued that television markets are not as crucial as they once were. Consider that Oklahoma City (the home of an NBA franchise) has the No. 43 TV market and Green Bay (home of the Packers) owns the No. 68 market.
Once the Raiders transition to Las Vegas, it will almost instantly become one of the most extravagant sporting cities in the world. Vegas already holds the title of “Fight Capital of the World.” The city already has a blooming NHL franchise in the Golden Knights. The newly built T-Mobile Arena, planted on the Strip, is versatile in the way it can host anything from a UFC event to the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament. And now we know the city will be adding a Raider team, which, led by a rising star in Carr, could be ready to compete for titles in Vegas.
They’ll be playing in a new stadium, expected to be ready in Las Vegas by the start of the 2020 NFL season. The Raiders have proposed a 65,000-seat domed stadium that would be shared with UNLV.
In the meantime, the Raiders are surely still the “Oakland Raiders” at the moment. The Raiders are expected to occupy the Bay Area for at least two more seasons — two more shots to bring a Super Bowl to Oakland for the first time since 1980.
However, in this tough situation, even the most extreme of optimists would admit that a Lombardi Trophy may still not be potent enough to pacify the bad taste being left in the mouths of many after the Raiders’ relocation.
Angel Viscarra is a sophomore studying broadcast and digital journalism. His column, “Viscarra’s Vice,” runs on Tuesdays.