Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press
By Vic Tafur
On Feb. 11, 2016, Raiders owner Mark Davis and Oakland city officials got together at Oracle Arena and smiled in front of all the TV cameras. They agreed to a one-year lease extension at the Coliseum and pledged to work together to build a permanent facility for the football team.
They haven’t met since.
And now Davis, frustrated at the lack of progress toward getting a new stadium in Oakland and city officials’ vows not to spend taxpayer money to get one, is locked in on a move to Las Vegas.
NFL owners are set to vote on the team’s possible relocation Monday or Tuesday at their meeting in Phoenix. Davis needs 24 of 32 owners to vote “yes,” though contingencies attached to a vote could push the final approval back to May, during the next owners’ meeting.
League sources expect the move — which wouldn’t happen until 2020 — to be approved. While the Raiders are confident enough that they were planning a news conference near the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus Wednesday, those plans could be scrapped due to the possible contingencies.
“Oakland is not really viewed as an alternative at this point,” one league executive said. “There’s nothing new on that end.”
Photo: Scott Anger, AP
At the heart of the matter is Davis’ unhappiness with the outdated Coliseum. Not only does the facility have the smallest seating capacity in the NFL (53,286 since the team tarps off the third-deck seats), but the Raiders share it with the A’s, making it the only stadium in the country that still hosts both NFL and MLB games.
For their part, Oakland officials are not willing to make the public open its wallets to appease Davis.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a letter Friday that she sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in which Fortress Investment Group — a San Francisco money management firm with more than $69 billion in assets — is offering a $600 million loan to help build a stadium in Oakland.
Goodell wrote Schaaf back Friday and, in the letter obtained by the Bay Area News Group, said the latest proposal is not “clear and specific (or) actionable in a reasonable time frame.” One league executive wondered why the Fortress loan hadn’t been mentioned when Schaaf met with the NFL’s stadium and finance committees in Florida two weeks ago. Another characterized the letter as an attempt by Schaaf “to save face.”
NFL representatives and executives requested anonymity because the issue is officially unresolved and the league doesn’t want to be seen as trying to influence the decision.
The issue of using tax money to finance a stadium has always been a nonstarter for Schaaf.
“I am willing to lose this team if the public money is the issue,” Schaaf told reporters last month, adding that Oakland residents are mad that tax money is still being used to pay for luring the Raiders back from Los Angeles in 1995.
Even if owners approve a move, the Raiders would play at the Coliseum for two more seasons while a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium is built for them in Las Vegas. The facility, which the Raiders would share with UNLV, would be west of Interstate 15 and the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on a 62-acre plot on Russell Road.
Bank of America has pledged to co-finance the project, with the Raiders and NFL offering $500 million and the remaining $750 million coming from a Clark County hotel room tax.
Where the Raiders might play in 2019 is unknown. It’s unlikely that another one-year lease at the Coliseum would be worked out and UNLV’s existing 35,500-seat Sam Boyd Stadium is not an option at this point. A possibility that will be discussed next week, according to sources, is the Raiders sharing Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara with the 49ers — an idea Davis has rejected as a permanent solution.
But providing public financing is not the only thing Schaaf could have done, league executives say.
While Davis has not met with Oakland officials in the past year, NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman has. He doesn’t like either of Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and the Fortress Group’s two proposals for a $1.3 billion Oakland stadium for the same reasons he didn’t like it when San Diego developer Floyd Kephart was leading the local effort two years ago.
“We’ve repeatedly told the city not to put a real estate developer between the Raiders and the city,” Grubman said. “And the latest proposals are too similar to the agreement with Kephart.”
League sources said the NFL has discussed being the developer of an Oakland stadium, but that Schaaf wouldn’t hand over the land.
“Bringing in a third party that needs to profit from the project may not be in the best interests of the city or the Raiders,” Grubman said.
Another key issue in the stadium talks has been the presence of the A’s. The baseball team’s lease at the Coliseum expires in 2023, and the city won’t give the NFL assurances it would terminate it .
The Raiders and A’s have never been able to agree on a division of the plot of land they share between 66th Avenue and Hegenberger Road adjacent to Interstate 880. And the sense among Raiders’ executives is that Schaaf has decided to go with 82 A’s home games instead of 10 for the Raiders.
“They went with the A’s, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” one Raiders official said.
In her letter Friday, Schaaf called the NFL’s request that the A’s rights to the Coliseum be truncated “problematic.”
For their part, Raiders fans have not given up on the team. The Coliseum routinely sells out and the season-ticket waiting list is more than 20,000 names long.
“The Raiders plan to abandon Oakland again, and the NFL has to stop this parade of relocations,” said Jim Zelinski, co-founder of Save Oakland Sports, whose group has started a nationwide petition.
“The league’s ad campaign is ‘Football is Family’ and Oakland fans treat the Raiders like family. And the NFL shouldn’t break that up.”
But despite the efforts of Lott’s group and fan interest, the league is clearly tilting toward Las Vegas.
Raiders president Marc Badain met with Clark County, Nev., Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak for three hours Wednesday.
The Raiders have yet to purchase land in Las Vegas (their option to do so runs out soon) and there is no lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority board. But Sisolak said team executives answered a lot of the league’s stadium and finance committees’ questions two weeks ago in Florida.
“The lease agreement is in progress,” Sisolak said. “They have an option to buy the land, which they will do if and when there is a relocation vote. And I think concerns about how they will service the debt were also addressed to everyone’s comfort.”
The league can actually help with servicing the debt. Some owners have suggested appointing Los Angeles billionaire and real estate tycoon Ed Roski as the project overseer.
If the Raiders’ move is approved, it would mark the third time in 26 months that the NFL has supported a franchise move. The first two — the St. Louis Rams (in January 2016) and San Diego Chargers (two months ago) — both involved teams moving to Los Angeles, the second-largest market in the country. L.A. had been without an NFL team since 1995 when the Rams and the Raiders left town.
Why is the NFL moving on the Las Vegas proposal now? The major reason is the $750 million in public money the deal includes.
When Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson pulled out of the deal with the Raiders in January, there was concern that the Nevada Legislature might redirect that hotel room tax money for other purposes. That’s when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones helped the Raiders reach a deal with Bank of America to replace Adelson, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
His fellow owners saw Davis as a good soldier last year when the Rams were given the keys to Los Angeles. Davis and Chargers owner Dean Spanos were partners on a proposed stadium in Carson that was seen as the favorite going into league meetings. But with Jones’ help, Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke turned the vote around. Spanos was given the option of joining him in Inglewood this year, which he accepted.
Davis, who has been building support from owners for years, didn’t complain — a far cry from his father, Al, who sued his fellow owners for the right to move to Los Angeles in 1982. Sources say the the NFL is expected to seek a relocation fee of only up to $375 million from the team; the Rams and Chargers were each charged $650 million.
Davis’ fellow owners are excited about the abundant tourist money in Las Vegas, and the NFL’s longtime concerns about gambling ties have all but vanished. While they are not thrilled by a move to the nation’s 40th-largest TV market, Davis has assured them that Oakland and Los Angeles fans will fly in for games — and they believe him.
“Plus, the Raiders are winning now,” one league executive said. “Fans will still go to the home games in Oakland the next two years and then wherever.
“Winning solves everything.”
That, and a record amount of public money for a new stadium.
Vic Tafur is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @VicTafur