NFL owners back Raiders’ Vegas gamble

National Football League owners voted by an overwhelming 31-1 margin at their meeting in Phoenix today to approve Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis’ plan to move the team to Las Vegas.

The Raiders’ new stadium in Las Vegas isn’t expected to be ready until 2020 and their lease at the Oakland Coliseum calls for them to keep playing in Oakland for at least the next two years.

Davis said in a statement:

“My father (Raiders founder Al Davis) always said, ‘The greatness of the Raiders is in its future’ and the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is a significant step toward achieving that greatness.”

Davis said:

“I would like to thank (NFL) Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, the National Football League and my 31 partners. I would also like to thank (Nevada) Governor Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature for their commitment.”

Davis added:

“Finally, I would like to thank (Las Vegas business mogul) Sheldon Adelson for his vision and leadership, without which this project never would have become a reality.

Davis said:

“The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA. We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff.”

He said:

“We plan to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018, and hope to stay there as the Oakland Raiders until the new stadium opens. We would love nothing more than to bring a championship back to the Bay Area.”

The owners’ vote came after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf made public a letter she had hand-delivered to National Football League owners pleading with them to keep the Raiders in Oakland and not approve the team’s plan to move to Las Vegas.

Schaaf said in her letter that the owners’ vote on the issue:

“… may be one of the most critical decisions in the National Football League’s history.”

Schaaf asked the owners:

“… to consider deeply the lasting impact your choice will have on the future and legacy of the broader NFL community.”

and said their vote will have a big impact on Oakland, where the Raiders were formed back in 1960.

Schaaf said when city of Oakland and Alameda County officials, who oversee the Oakland Coliseum complex, signed a lease extension agreement with the Raiders last spring it was their understanding that the Raiders would continue negotiating with them on a deal to build a new football stadium in Oakland “yet since that time the Raiders have refused to engage or honor this intent.”

The mayor said Oakland and Alameda County officials “offer a more financially sound and certain stadium project than Las Vegas.”

Schaaf said the city and county plan, which is backed by an investment group headed by former San Francisco 49er star Ronnie Lott and the Fortress Investment Group of New York, calls for building a $1.3 billion stadium on a 55-acre site on the north side of the Coliseum complex.

Schaaf told NFL owners that:

“This will be the first time ever where the NFL has abandoned an existing market which is bringing a fully-financed new stadium to the table.”