Football season's starting to get under way. The draft is coming up later this week, and I'll be interested in seeing who John Fox and the Bears select in their efforts to rebuild the team. However, there's a more personally-interesting story that popped up this week: according to several reports, the Oakland Raiders are showing interesting in relocating to Las Vegas. According to multiple sources, Raiders' owner Mark Davis has already visited Las Vegas in preliminary talks about relocating his team, and he will return on Thursday to meet with the Nevada tourism officials to discuss UNLV's planned domed stadium.
Mark Davis met with Sheldon Addleson and Las Vegas representatives about possibly moving the Raiders to Vegas.
This all sounds like a terrible idea, and I don't think it's a good move for either the Raiders or the city of Las Vegas. I'm not a big fan of the domed stadium proposal to begin with, mostly because I think the location is a disaster of traffic management waiting to happen. UNLV wants to build the stadium on or near UNLV's campus in order to encourage live-in students to attend games, since many of them might lack cars and can't travel out to Sam Boyd Stadium out in the middle of nowhere. Seems understandable, except that the proposed area is already a major traffic arterial that is prone to congestion, and the stadium is planned to replace the current parking lot of the Thomas and Mack basketball arena. The Strip, and the roads around it, already suffer from severe congestion and gridlock on a pretty regular basis, especially on Saturday nights when UNLV games are typically played. And that's without 60,000 people trying to funnel into a stadium!
Las Vegas is a commuter town (and UNLV is mostly a commuter school), but Vegas lacks any large-scale mass transit options. Our bus system is lackluster, and we don't have any kind of light rail. The monorail system that runs along half the strip doesn't even stretch to downtown or to the airport, and won't enable opponent teams' fans to travel from the airport to the stadium - let alone support commuters wanting to come from the suburbs of Henderson, North Las Vegas, Summerlin, or the rapidly-growing southwestern corner. In addition, I doubt that the location of the stadium on-campus will help all that much with student attendence at UNLV games. I think a bigger factor in students not attending is that many of them have part-time jobs and work on Saturdays. So they wouldn't be attending no matter where the stadium is located.
UNLV is considering building a new football stadium [LEFT] in the place of the
Thomas & Mack Center's existing (and barely-sufficient) parking [RIGHT]
And then there's the parking issue. Without public transit, fans are stuck driving to the game, and Las Vegas citizens are (from my experience) frustratingly-averse to carpooling. If you build a 60,000-seat stadium, you'll need a 60,000-car parking lot to go along side it. Except this stadium is replacing the existing parking lot outside of the Thomas and Mack. So where will everybody park? Are they going to add ten floors to the existing southern parking garage? They can't build an underground parking garage; that would be a disaster waiting to happen. Las Vegas is located in a valley, and UNLV's campus is at one of the lowest points in that valley, which means when we get our late August and September "monsoons", the area is prone to flooding. UNLV's parking lots have been known to flood during heavy rainstorms. An underground parking garage would likely turn into a subterranean swimming pool when a similarly heavy rainstorm inevitably happens.
The UNLV campus has flooded during heavy rainstorms, damaging vehicles and leaving students and visitors stranded.
But I digress...
UPDATE MAY 10, 2016:
More recent reports have indicated that the Raiders would continue to play in California until a new stadium is constructed in Las Vegas. They would not be playing in Sam Boyd Stadium. This certainly makes the move seem more serious to me, since most of my doubts regarding Davis' sincerity was the result of Davis suggesting that the Raiders might play at Sam Boyd for a couple years while waiting for the new stadium. So the following few paragraphs have now been rendered moot, so feel free to disregard.
In any case, such a stadium won't be completed for years! I'm not even sure if it's even been fully approved yet. But these reports are saying that the Raiders could be playing in Las Vegas as early as the 2017 NFL season. So where would they play? Mark Davis supposedly has already visited Sam Boyd Stadium, and has approved of it as a temporary home for the Raiders until the new stadium gets built.
HA! Numerous renovations over the last 15 years have helped keep Sam Boyd respectable as a bottom-tier university venue, but it's a far cry from being a respectable professional sporting venue. It only holds 35,000-42,000 people. The seats are simple metal benches. The restroom and concession facilities are mediocre-at-best. And a majority of attendees are stuck parking on a dirt lot across the street from the stadium. Worst of all would be the oppressive heat of the Sunday afternoons in August, September, and even October. This is why UNLV's games are mostly at night, but the Raiders won't have the luxury of scheduling their games at night, because the NFL only allows nationally-televised games to be played in prime time. I'm really hard-pressed to believe that any NFL owner would be satisfied with playing at Sam Boyd in its current state. That stadium would needs a year or two of its own renovations (including potentially a dome) before I could even imagine an NFL team playing there.
Sam Boyd Stadium isn't exactly an NFL-caliber facility...
Lastly, there's the simple, sad fact that Las Vegas fans are fickle. The Raiders aren't exactly an NFL powerhouse. In fact, they're kind of a laughing stock. I don't think they've had a single winning season since they were destroyed by the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. So unless the Raiders have a miraculous turnaround and win the Super Bowl in 2017, I don't see them getting much support from the Las Vegas sports audience. I wouldn't be surprised if Sam Boyd ends up filling more than half of its 42,000 seats with fans of the other team. That already happens to UNLV whenever schools like BYU come to town.
But in the end, I don't think all this matters. I get the feeling that Mark Davis is just posturing for leverage to get a better deal from the city of Oakland, or maybe even to get some kind of offer from Los Angeles. I don't doubt that he wants out of Oakland, but I just can't believe that he'd be serious about moving his team to Las Vegas at this time. So I'm not going to put much stock in this happening. Not that it's impossible - Davis isn't exactly known for being the smartest owner in the league. It just all seems highly unlikely.
I don't think that it will happen, and - quite frankly - I don't like the Raiders, so I personally don't want it to happen. And even if it does happen, they'll probably be tuck tail and run back to Oakland within 10 years.