As news of proposed plans by the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders to build a $1.7-billion stadium in Carson sunk in here, some Bay Area Raiders fans strenuously disagreed with the notion that the Southland would prove a more lucrative location.
“It’s a false narrative,” said Jim Zelinski, noting that the Raiders' last stint in the Southland was cut short by the team’s decision to return to Oakland -- and that was before the recent tech boom revved up the Bay Area economy.
Zelinski grew up in San Leandro and started going to Raiders games with his dad as a boy in 1969. When the team returned from its troubled tenure in Los Angeles in 1995, he “plunked down” $8,000 for his personal seat license to secure seasons tickets.
He knows other fans who took out second mortgages on their homes to do so.
In 2012, he co-founded Save Oakland Sports, a grassroots fan group pushing to keep the Raiders, Oakland A's and Golden State Warriors -- who have already announced their intention to move to San Francisco -- in Oakland. (Efforts by the A’s to move to San Jose have been rejected by the courts, and the team recently signed a 10-year Oakland lease, buying fans some time.)
Both the Raiders’ owner and its president have personally pledged to Oakland officials over the last week that a new stadium in the city remains the team's first priority.
The city is in exclusive talks with an investor group around development of “Coliseum City,” which would include housing and retail as well as a new stadium for the Raiders. After a long delay, the county is now also at the table.
Zelinski concedes it doesn't look good that the teams have already bought land in Carson. But he believes the Raiders should not leave home again.
In Oakland, he argues, the team has a site with ideal freeway, commuter rail, regional train and even airport access; an opportunity to tap an ascendant economy spurred by the region’s technology boom and sharp rise in wealth; and “the greatest fan base, period.”
“I would ask [owner] Mark Davis to remember his own words,” Zelinski said. “After the Raiders beat the Chiefs last season in their first win, he said, ‘You can’t buy the type of support we have here.’ That cannot be overemphasized.
"What other fan base would show up in such numbers despite the uncertainty over the last three or four years, despite playing in this stadium. For me, this is like a second home.”
This community, he added, "has given nothing but blind, most unbelievably passionate support to this team. Mark Davis has an opportunity to create an enduring legacy that would benefit the East Bay for generations, and I would ask him to consider the support that the East Bay has given his family and his franchise.”
Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, a commissioner for the joint powers authority that manages the Oakland Coliseum site, said the county is moving methodically to come to agreement with the city on a development plan.
"We come to the table with the full intention of keeping the Raiders in Oakland," he said, "and I don’t think that they have to move to some small town outside of L.A. As my wife said, ‘Is that in Nevada?’ ”