Why Did the Raiders Move to Las Vegas?

Why Did the Raiders Move to Las Vegas?

The move of the Raiders to Las Vegas was influenced by several critical factors

  • Unresolved Stadium Issues in Oakland: The Raiders faced challenges securing a new stadium in Oakland, with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum being outdated and negotiations for public funding or a partnership failing to yield a viable solution.
  • Las Vegas’ Financial Incentives: Nevada and Las Vegas provided significant public funding towards the construction of a state-of-the-art stadium, offering $750 million in hotel taxes, which was a decisive factor in the Raiders’ relocation decision.
  • Market and Economic Opportunities: Las Vegas presented a growing market with high tourist traffic and economic opportunities, promising to enhance the Raiders’ brand and fan base in a city known for its entertainment and sports scene.

Just a decade ago, none of the four major North American professional sports (football, baseball, basketball, hockey) had a team that was based in Las Vegas. Now, three of those sports have teams there (with baseball trying to get one in the coming years); and none more notable than the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Las Vegas Raiders electing to relocate from Oakland was a decision not at all well received from their loyal Oakland fanbase. However, while the Raiders franchise haven’t seen much success in the four years since they made their move to Allegiant Stadium, their franchise has become synonymous with Sin City — which has surely made them more valuable.

But why exactly did the Raiders move to Las Vegas? Well, the short answer is greed. Although the long answer is much more complicated — and fascinating — than that. So let’s dig a little bit deeper and get to the bottom of why the Raiders made their move.

Raiders Franchise History

In order to understand why the Raiders relocated to Las Vegas, it’s important to understand where they came from first.

When the Raiders first became an NFL team in 1970, they were based on Oakland, and shared a stadium with the Oakland Athletics of the MLB. Then, in 1980, Raiders’ longtime owner Al Davis (whose son, Mark, took over the team after he died in 2009, and is the man responsible for their move to Las Vegas) struck a deal with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission to move the Raiders to Los Angeles.

Initially the NFL refused the Raiders their desired move, but they eventually were overruled by a court, and the Raiders went to Los Angeles in 1982.

After 13 years, the Raiders decided to move back to Oakland, after Alameda County (where Oakland is located) agreed to build luxury and club seats at the Oakland Coliseum (where the Athletics play), where Los Angeles didn’t deliver on promised renovations to enhance their field. Therefore, in 1995, the Raiders moved back to Oakland.

As soon as Al Davis died in 2009 and his son Mark took control of the team, the Raiders franchise began looking for places to relocate. After spending the better part of six years looking into various relocation projects — including moving to Santa Clara and sharing Levi’s Stadium with the San Francisco 49ers, moving back to Los Angeles, relocation to San Antonio, Texas — none of which these options worked out, for various reasons.

Then, in 2016, Mark Davis began meeting with people in Las Vegas to figure out how they might be able to make a move to the city work.

After a lot of excitement and announcements made by Davis, the Raiders officially filed paperwork to move to Las Vegas on January 19, 2017. After much back and forth between various conglomerates who said they were going to invest money into the stadium then pulled out, the Raiders ultimately decided to invest 1.15 billion into the project, in addition to what the city of Las Vegas would give them (more on that in a bit).

The Raiders began to break new ground on what was then called Las Vegas Stadium in November 2017. Then, over a year later, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Las Vegas would host the 2020 NFL Draft, which was his way of showing support the Raiders’ impending move.

Still, the city of Oakland was not happy about the move. In December 2018, the city filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Raiders, seeking millions of dollars in damages and unpaid debts to the Raiders’ former home stadium.

Although that didn’t stop the raiders’ impending plans to move to Las Vegas. They continued to build their new stadium — all while continuing to play their games at Oakland Coliseum, which made for an awkward arrangement — and ultimately declared themselves the “Las Vegas Raiders“ in a ceremony at Allegiant Stadium (what their new stadium in Las Vegas would be called) on January 22, 2020.

Ultimately, the Raiders played their first regular season game at Allegiant Stadium on September 21, 2020, and defeated the New Orleans Saints, 34-24.

Why Did the Raiders Move to Las Vegas?

Now that we know the background behind the Raiders and their eventual move, let’s get into why they actually decided to move in the first place.

As I said before, the short answer is because of greed.

But there’s also the fact that Oakland Coliseum was one of the worst sports venues in America; which was proven by the NFL issuing a statement in April 2017 that said, “that the Raiders’ current home stadium is not adequate for NFL football, and must be replaced, a conclusion agreed to by the civic leadership in Oakland.’

The Raiders were open to remaining in Oakland — so long as the city would help them build a new stadium. Yet, Oakland balked about the idea of using taxpayer money to help fund a new stadium. The city of Las Vegas, on the other hand, offered to give the franchise $750 million in public funds to build a new stadium. This was the largest domino that fell in the process, and is what ultimately caused the Raiders to relocate to Vegas.

While this has never been stated publicly by those in power, there’s no question that Las Vegas is a much, much bigger market than Oakland. And considering that Las Vegas is such a massive global tourist attraction, it seemed guaranteed that the Raiders would be able to prosper financially once they were based in Las Vegas (which has come true).

For all of these reasons, the Raiders decided to relocate to Las Vegas.

Raiders’ Relocation Impact

There is no question that the Raiders relocation has already paid off. Their new Allegiant Stadium is a gorgeous venue that is infinitely better than the Oakland Coliseum, where they had been playing their games at. When the NFL season is underway, Raiders games have become a main attraction for Las Vegas’ endless tourists, which brings a ton of money in for both the team and the city. And considering that the team has been mediocre at best while they’ve been in Las Vegas (and for a long time before that, as well), the franchise producing a winning product will gain a lot of attraction.

There’s also no question that the city of Oakland — and more importantly, its fans — are still very upset that their beloved team decided to leave. Oakland Raiders fans were infamous for being extremely loyal and devoted to their team; but the fanbase has completely shifted since the Las Vegas move.

While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the franchise, it’s still sad to see Oakland fans so resentful toward the team they loved so nearly. Not that Mark Davis will be worrying about that.

James Idayi
Posted in NFL