Disclaimer: I live in Las Vegas.
Whew! Glad I could get that off my chest. Shall we continue? Good.
Sports franchise relocations are an ugly business. Not just in football, but in any sport. Whether it was the Browns to Baltimore, the Sonics to OKC, or the Expos to D.C., when major sports teams are relocated, someone gets the shaft and far more often than not, that “someone” is the fanbase.
For nearly twenty years, the NFL enjoyed its longest period of geographical stability, post-merger. Then, that stability entered arguably the most tumultuous period of change in the history of the league, culminating with three team relocations in just two years.
But not all moves are created equal and that’s what I intend to discuss today.
The Raiders have a robust history in California, where they’ve played for the entirety of their existence. Recently, that came to an end when NFL owners approved for the Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas, Nevada. Unfortunately, this move was a long time coming and it came as little surprise when it was approved. But that doesn’t ease the pains of Raider Nation faithful, who have been praying for some form of a miracle for years to keep their team.
On the surface, there’s a lot to despise about these events:
- The people of Oakland have been blindly supporting a consistently mediocre or worse Raiders team for years. Prior to last season, the Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2002-2003 season. Recently, the team has been on the rise, finishing 12-4 last season to earn a Wildcard berth and their first appearance in the playoffs in 14 years. Their ascension was not an anomaly. Anchored by a charismatic and passionate quarterback still on his rookie contract and young play-makers across the roster, the Raiders do indeed have a bright future. A future that Oakland will no longer get to witness first hand.
- Las Vegas lawmakers approved what is currently the largest ever public subsidy of a stadium, coming in at a whopping $750 million dollars. Enough to have essentially and effectively remodeled and renovated Oakland Coliseum on its own. This furthers a trend that many fans of football are growing weary of: public tax funds paying for shiny brand new stadiums for billionaire franchise owners.
- The City of Oakland is at a crossroads as the city cannot currently afford to have offered a public subsidy of its own. Many areas in the socioeconomic development of Oakland require immediate attention to better benefit the people living there. Education, law enforcement, and public roadways are in desperate need of further funding. So the Raiders seeking the subsidy and not getting it can’t be at the fault of the city. Through this lack of fault, they are losing one of its more popular sports franchises.
But, and I hate to get cliche here, you really can’t judge a book by its cover.
Oakland Coliseum, the Raiders home for several decades, is literally falling apart. When it rains, it pours and the stadium literally floods. Leaks are patched up with paper cups and tape while dugouts (during A’s games) and locker rooms flood with sewage. Fans in the stadium are also subjected to hazardous conditions as several have fallen from upper deck seating areas and have been seriously wounded or worse. The parking is inadequate and the technology in the stadium is far out-dated. The need, yes an actual need for a new stadium, is palpable and legitimate.
This is where the misconceptions surrounding the Raiders’ move start to show up.
NFL team relocations have no shortage of controversy as owners are often perceived (correctly, most of the time) to hold their teams hostage against their fans to secure public funding for shiny new stadiums. Stadiums that NFL owners can, more often than not, afford outright. This is simply not the case for Mark Davis and the Raiders.
Davis’ current net worth is at $500 million. He’s not Robert Kraft, Jerruh Jones, or Stan Kroenke (to his credit, Kroenke is at least funding his own stadium). Additionally, that net worth is no where near the same as liquid wealth. What this means, is that just because he is worth $500 million, that does not mean that he has anything close to that amount in his bank account. He has achieved that worth as the result of his asset, controlling interest of the Raiders, which he inherited. So as backward as it may seem, Davis cannot fund anything even close to a bare bones stadium in today’s NFL, let alone one deserving of a team on the rise and a fanbase long due for success.
So the team needs to secure additional funding for a project that is just meant to get them from out of the literal gutter.
Enter: Las Vegas, baby.
In October of 2016 legislators passed a bill to secure the $750 million subsidy for the Raiders’ new stadium as well as an additional $420 million subsidy for the expansion of the Sands Convention Center. I included the Sands expansion here for two reasons: (1) the method to raise money for the stadium is the exact same method that will be used to raise money for the convention center expansion and (2) both projects are combined when projecting future income, which I will explain later on.
Yep, $1.17 billion dollars in public subsidy for the stadium and convention center expansion. Seems insane, right? Sure, on the surface. But you really shouldn’t stop there.
To create these subsidies, Clark County will raise the tax applied to hotel room rates for every single hotel room within the county at total of 1.38% (0.88% for the stadium, 0.5% for the convention expansion). To break the numbers down to their simplest form:
|Rate Per Night||Starting Cost||Applied Tax||Result|
Rates from Caesars Palace were taken from their website at the time I wrote this article. The room chosen was their second cheapest option at the time and the hotel had rooms exceeding eight hundred dollars per night available.
This may seem like a slow method to earn the $1.17 billion in subsidies that the city is now responsible for, but what seems to escape most critics of this deal is that the bonds used to fund both projects are to be paid over 30 years, not upon completion of either or both projects. This means that the new tax rate needs to earn roughly $39 million per year to fund both the stadium and convention center expansion. The beauty behind that? Remember when I foreshadowed future projections earlier in the post? Both future projects are projected to earn $85 million per year in tax revenue, with roughly one-third of that already earmarked for education funding.
Additionally, tens of thousands of local jobs will be created both in the short term and long term as a result of these two projects.
As I stated before, loyal fans are the usual recipients of the shaft when their teams pack up and leave town and this definitely holds true for the Raiders’ eventual move to Las Vegas. As someone who will bleed Purple and Gold until I’m dead and cold, I couldn’t even fathom the idea of being able to root for the Vikings at home games eight times a year only to suddenly lose them through no fault of the fanbase. I can’t adequately express how badly I feel for Oakland.
But this move has received far more criticism than I feel it deserves. All over the internet and in media, people everywhere denounce yet another NFL relocation, yet they mention none of the details I have explained or even acknowledge their existence. Regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, this is not a run-of-the-mill or cut and dry situation and I think it’s time that people started to realize that.
Now before I shut the door on this and climb down from my soap box, I wanted to float something positive. As I said at the start of this article, I currently live in Las Vegas as I have for my entire life. I’ve certainly had plenty of opportunity to get to know this city inside and out. One of the more positive spins regarding the Las Vegas Raiders is that fans from all teams are excited to plan a weekend in Vegas to watch their team play here. So let me know on Twitter @DylanSAYSS if you’d like for me to write up a guide of do’s and dont’s for your future visit!
With this piece out of the way, I’ll be getting back to my three part series: “Zimmer’s Success in the North” with Part II on the way! If you missed it, you can catch Part I here!