The Oakland Raiders are on the move — again. NFL owners voted 31-1 today to approve the team’s move southeast to Las Vegas, but it will continue to play in the East Bay for two more seasons while a Sin City stadium is built.
It will mark the third move for the Raiders franchise, which relocated to Los Angeles for the 1982 season before heading back to the Bay Area in 1995. It will become Las Vegas’ first NFL team and only its second major sports franchise, as the NHL’s expansion Golden Knights will begin play in the fall.
It’s also the NFL’s third franchise-move approval in less than 15 months, following the Rams re-relocating from St. Louis in January 2016 and the San Diego Chargers moving to L.A. to share an Inglewood stadium with the Rams that’s set to open in 2019. The latter move was confirmed two months ago after the Chargers and city could not reach a deal to replace Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.
Before the Rams move, the most recent NFL team relocation had been the Houston Oilers leaving for Nashville to become the Tennessee Titans. The Cleveland Browns left for Baltimore to become the Ravens the previous year.
Raiders owner Mark Davis, son of franchise founder and NFL Hall of Famer Al Davis, had been trying for years to work with Oakland to build a new stadium to replace the antiquated Coliseum. Las Vegas lawmakers last year approved $750 million in public funding to construct a 65,000-seat stadium near the Strip. It is expected to open for the 2020 season, leaving the Raiders in stadium limbo for 2019. Check out the artist rendering at left.
As for the 2019 season, the league said playing in a different city is viable and perhaps even a one-season return to Oakland Colisuem, though the latter seems a long shot. UNLV’s Dodd Stadium also is being looked at, but it would need major upgrades to host NFL games. There’s also a possibility of playing in Levi’s Stadium, which is home to the San Francisco 49ers.
The next NFL championship game up for bid will be Super Bowl LVI in 2022. Will the league opt to stage its Big Game — and TV’s Biggest Day — in Sin City? Bet on it.