The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. Just not yet.
Though an overwhelming majority of the NFL’s 32 owners on Monday voted in favor of the Raiders’ relocation proposal, stadium logistics will keep the franchise in Oakland for at least another two seasons, team owner Mark Davis said in a statement announcing the move.
“The Raiders were born in Oakland, and Oakland will always be part of our DNA,” Davis said. “We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff. We plan to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and hope to stay there as the Oakland Raiders until the new stadium opens. We would love nothing more than to bring a championship back to the Bay Area.”
Why the wait? Simple: At the moment, there isn’t really anywhere in or around Vegas for the Raiders to play. Their new stadium — which, judging by the early renderings, will be gorgeous and surely will host a Super Bowl within the next decade — isn’t expected to open until 2020. The largest venue in the area is Sam Boyd Stadium, the home of UNLV football.
Sam Boyd has a maximum capacity of 40,000, which would make it the second-smallest NFL stadium behind the Los Angeles Chargers’ new temporary home, the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Playing in such a tiny venue wouldn’t be ideal for a professional franchise, but the alternative has its dangers, as well.
Namely, what if Raiders fans in Oakland bail on the team and refuse to buy tickets to games over the next two seasons?
That’s exactly what happened when the Houston Oilers continued to play at the Astrodome after announcing their move to Tennessee in 1995. Their popularity plummeted during the 1996 season, after which the team now known as the Titans spent one season at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and another at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville before moving into its current digs in 1999.
And really, that response makes a lot of sense. If your team just announced it would be leaving you, would you really want to give its owner more of your hard-earned money?
Davis rejected the term “lame duck” in his news conference Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what his team is right now.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images