Before catching a flight from Oakland to Las Vegas on Wednesday, Raiders owner Mark Davis talked on the phone with one of the team’s stars of the past.
Cliff Branch, a wide receiver on three Super Bowl-winning teams for the Raiders in the 1970s and 1980s, wished Davis good luck in Las Vegas.
“It’s time for the Raiders to move into the future,” Branch said Thursday. “It’s all about a new stadium. So, is it a sad day? No. It’s time to move into the future.”
In one of the first steps of what could be a long climb, Davis vowed Thursday to attempt to relocate the Raiders to Las Vegas if a stadium is constructed primarily for his team.
A plan to build a $1.4 billion, 65,000-seat stadium near the Strip was presented to the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee. The project would be funded through a public-private partnership including the Raiders, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Majestic Realty.
Davis pledged a contribution of $500 million from the Raiders toward the project, including $200 million as a loan from the NFL. Las Vegas Sands and Majestic Realty would contribute about $150 million, and $750 million would come from taxes on tourists.
“We have made a commitment to Las Vegas at this point in time, and that’s where it stands,” Davis told the committee. “We’re not using Las Vegas as a bargaining chip. I would never do that. This is real.”
The committee does not have the authority to approve the project or the tax diversions or increases needed to fund it. It will recommend projects that support the tourism economy to the Nevada Legislature, which would have final say.
Davis spoke at 9:45 a.m., more than an hour into the meeting, and soccer star David Beckham was part of his entourage. Beckham, who has a business and promotional relationship with Las Vegas Sands, spoke to the committee about the values of bringing the Raiders and major soccer events to Las Vegas.
A small group of Raiders fans gathered in the Stan Fulton Building on UNLV’s campus, where the meeting attracted an overflow crowd of around 300, including a large media contingent.
“It’s time for the Raiders to have a state-of-the-art stadium,” said Branch, who played his entire 14-year career with the Raiders, both in Oakland and Los Angeles. “Everybody else is getting new stadiums, but the Raiders have been getting the runaround for years. It’s time to get a stadium to compete with the other owners in the league.”
The Raiders currently play in O.co Coliseum, the third-oldest venue in the league. The team has agreed to play the 2016 season in Oakland on a one-year lease, but has no home beyond this season.
Davis expressed confidence the NFL would approve his move. A franchise relocation requires the approval of 24 of the league’s 32 owners. The league rejected the Raiders’ attempt to move to Los Angeles this year.
“I think we’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse,” Davis said.
Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of communications, did not respond to a request for comment.
“The Raiders were given permission by other clubs to evaluate their options and to consider their alternatives, and they’re doing that,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday in a Los Angeles Times report. “They know that it’s subject to a vote.”
The Raiders issued a statement thanking the SNTIC and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman “for their time today as we continue to explore options for a permanent stadium solution. We appreciate the support and passion of Raiders fans everywhere.”
The NFL has long held an anti-betting stance and opposed any business relationships with Las Vegas and its legal sports wagering atmosphere.
“There’s gaming in every single state now, so I don’t think you can use the gaming argument anymore,” said David Humm, a Bishop Gorman High School graduate who was a backup quarterback for the Raiders in Oakland (1975 to 1979) and Los Angeles (1983, 1984).
Humm, drafted by Oakland in the fifth round out of Nebraska in 1975, said he has no doubt the Raiders would be a big hit with fans in Las Vegas.
“I played my first five years in Oakland and my last two in L.A. The fans in Oakland are so great,” Humm said. “Right now, I can’t get a ticket to a game for the coming season. Wherever the Raiders go to play, we sell out stadiums. The fans travel incredibly. So, I’m definitely torn.
“But I’m happy for my hometown. I live here, and the Raiders are coming to me. I don’t think there will be an empty seat in the stadium. I think it’s a match made in heaven.”
Al Davis, the Raiders’ owner until his death in 2011, was a renegade who challenged NFL authority and frequently expressed an affinity for Las Vegas.
“Mark brought it up, his dad always loved this town,” Humm said.
The proposed stadium, also planned as a new home for UNLV football, would take about three years to build. While the stadium’s location isn’t settled, and the seating capacity might expand to 70,000 or more, the plan calls for an operable roof on the dome and a grass playing surface.
“A natural grass field is really important to the Raiders,” Davis said.
“I think we have support from people in the NFL,” he said. “Together we can turn the Silver State into the silver and black state.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247