The Raiders were approved to relocate from Oakland to Las Vegas last week by a 31-1 vote of NFL ownership, but the Silver and Black won’t be packing up quite yet.
They could play as many as three seasons in a market they’re leaving, creating a limbo period that isn’t fun for many. That includes Raiders owner Mark Davis, who has been stressed about this move despite securing a sweetheart deal to build a new venue just off the Las Vegas Strip.
"I’m not celebrating anything like I would like to be,” Davis said Tuesday in an extended interview with 95.7-The Game host JT the Brick. “We’re building a world-class venue in the entertainment capital of the world that will be great for Super Bowls and big events, but I still have a feeling for the fans in the Bay Area. I’ve met with a number of them, and anything I say isn’t going to soothe them. It makes this whole thing bittersweet.”
Davis detailed several starts and stops in stadium talks with Oakland and Alameda County, explaining to fans why he eventually turned full attention to Las Vegas. He said the Raiders nearly had a term sheet for a stadium completed with development company Colony Capital, and that a 10-year lease extension between the Athletics and Oakland Coliseum in summer 2014 derailed that Raiders stadium effort.
Davis referred to that A’s lease as an obstacle several times during the interview where he said he exhausted options to stay in the Bay Area despite a desire to do so. He also said the NFL pushed hard to keep the Raiders in place.
“The only people Oakland was in competition with was themselves,” Davis said. ”If they could’ve come up with a deal that could’ve given us the land or leased it at reasonable terms and gave us the infrastructure and ability to find a developer to bridge the funding gap, we may have been able to do something on that site. I believe it’s a phenomenal. Sundays at that stadium are the greatest. …Plans the city had would downgrade that game day experience.”
Davis said he offered a 20-percent stake in the Raiders at favorable rates to development companies and Athletics ownership. Offering a stake to the Athletics was new information, something originally expressed when Davis and team president Marc Badain had lunch with then-A's owner Lew Wolff and another top executive.
The Raiders wanted both teams to vacate the Coliseum site and return when two sport-specific stadia were complete. The A’s didn’t pursue that plan, and it didn't go much further. The Raiders kept trying different alternatives, Davis outlined in the interview, but weren't able to secure a stadium deal in the East Bay.
“We’ve tried to get help to build (a stadium) either with the A’s or on our own, but we do not want to build in the corner of that parking lot,” Davis said. “We were never going to do that. We want to build something that’s going to be great, a world-class stadium that the Raiders, the NFL and, most of all, the fans are proud of. That wasn’t going to happen.”
That, and a messy lease negotiation in 2016 shifted Davis' focus outside the market, where he eventually secured financing on a $1.7 billion stadium in Las Vegas that includes $750 million in public funds and a loan from Bank of America.
The Raiders hold one-year lease options to play at Oakland Coliseum in 2017 and 2018. Davis has said he hopes the Raiders will remain in the Bay Area in 2019 – his Las Vegas stadium won’t be ready until 2020 -- though the Oakland Coliseum authority has balked at that prospect. The Raiders could also play at Cal's Memorial Stadium or Levi's Stadium if they choose to remain in the Bay Area in 2019. Davis is adverse to renovating UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium for just one season, considering it won't permanently host any team beyond that season.
Davis vowed to remain active in the Bay Area community before and after the Raiders leave, and hopes to shield his team and employees from fan ire over his decision to move.
“If there’s blame to be given, it should be aimed at me,” Davis said. “I’m the one who made the decision. My dream is for us to play out the next two, possibly three seasons in Oakland. I’d like to bring a championship to Oakland. I’m hoping that, in time, emotions will dry and that we’ll be able to do something of that nature.
“…I feel like I should say I understand that there is anger and disappointment, and that it should be pointed at me and not a Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Jack Del Rio. Those guys want to bring a championship to the Bay Area.”