At the NFL Owners Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, today, the Oakland Raiders were approved to relocate to Las Vegas.
The move is the third relocation approval in a little more than a year after the approval to relocate the Los Angeles Rams from St. Louis a year ago and this year’s kick-in of the San Diego Chargers joining them in LA.
As always, the story starts and ends with money. Lots of it. Sin City is putting up a whopping $750m of public funds to support the construction of the Raiders’ future home. The Raiders will only have to pay about half of the $650m that Rams and Chargers had to pay to get into the LA market. They and the league will put together about $500m to go with a loan of another $650m to complete the funding.
Who’s behind the momentum to fund this whole swirling remaking of the NFL map? The most powerful man in the league. No, not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
It is estimated that Legends/Jones' take from the combined Rams/Chargers/49ers/Raiders new stadium activity: Hundreds of millions.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) March 27, 2017
Remember that Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones and not Rams Owner Stan Kroenke was the reported driving force behind securing the approval to relocate the Rams, or as Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky put it, Jerry Jones is “the reason the Rams are in Los Angeles.”
Arkansas moneymen aside, how does this affect the Rams? Well for one, the Raiders are still going to play in Oakland for the next two seasons (as it stands...I wouldn’t be surprised if 2017 goes horribly in Oakland and they bail to a temporary facility prior to the construction of their new home stadium), so no trips to Las Vegas are needed yet. It does though wipe the Vegas option off the map for the Chargers.
Some had believed that would be a tempting landing ground for the Chargers who limped into Los Angeles without nearly no on-the-ground support compared to the Rams who had as much as any team in professional sports history as evidenced by the pace of selling out of season tickets in their first season in LA:
Rams sold out of 70,000 season tix in 6 hours. Over 2 months after announcing move, Chargers finally sell out their 30K stadium.— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) March 27, 2017
So now what? Who goes next in the NFL carousel? The Jacksonville Jaguars have long been a punching bag in relocation jokes. The Buffalo Bills are facing a similar dilemma with New Era Field to what Oakland just went through with O.co Coliseum. You’ve got five other stadia built before 1990 that are going to hit a pressure point at some point soon.
The other factor? Empty markets. Whether it’s by expansion or by another round of relocation, the NFL is going to want to fill some of these markets. Oakland is part of the sixth-biggest television market in the country per this list, though I guess you argue the San Francisco 49ers will ultimately fill the void left in the Raiders’ wake. Other markets include the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto area (20th), St. Louis (21st), Raleigh-Durham (24th), Portland (25th) and San Diego (28th). That’s to say nothing of Mexico City, Toronto or London.
Suffice to say, this isn’t the end of relocation as we know it. NFL ownership listens to dollars more than it heeds the calls of fans, media or even fellow owners. The dollars that are calling from those empty markets won’t grow silent. For now though, the Las Vegas barrier has been brought down and with it, the end of an era in Oakland.