ORLANDO, Fla. — Mark Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, has acknowledged the possibility of moving the franchise back to Los Angeles if Oakland can't get its act together on a new stadium.
That's interesting. But if words translated into actions, the L.A. market would have landed an NFL team or two 15 years ago. More than half of the league's 32 teams have been linked to L.A. at one point or another, as in, Team 'X' could potentially move if it can't get a stadium deal where it is.
At the league's annual meetings Monday, Davis said his patience is wearing thin over the Coliseum City project, the proposed redevelopment of the 850 acres in and around the Oakland Coliseum to create new homes for the Raiders, Athletics and Golden State Warriors. He said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan had told him there would be a deal ready to go by the end of last season and that Quan later bumped that deadline to this summer.
"I need to know we've got a deal," said Davis, whose team shares its stadium with the A's, meaning the Raiders have a dirt infield at home for half their season. "We can't continue to play on a baseball field. We just can't do it. We can't continually be pushed, pushed, pushed. 'We're going to try this, we're going to try that…' The group that they have in there now is credible to me. If they want to get something done, they can. But they have to work with the city."
NFL owners voted Monday to approve a one-year extension of the Raiders' lease at the Coliseum, meaning that deal will expire after the upcoming season.
Forget about the notion of the Raiders sharing a home with the San Francisco 49ers, who are building a new stadium in Santa Clara.
"The problem was, when they started building it, if we'd have gone with them then we'd have been abandoning Oakland," Davis said. "The whole time, I've been up and up with everybody that I'm negotiating in good faith. So I couldn't be involved with the 49ers and still be doing it good faith, and using that as leverage or anything else.
"By the time the 49ers finished their building — and you've got to give them credit for getting something done in California — it's a 49er building. It's like the Jets and the Giants in the old Meadowlands. We'd be like a second tenant. That's not what I want for the Raiders and their legacy."
But if a deal doesn't come together in Oakland, Davis said he is open to moving. He said he has met over the years with Southern California developer Ed Roski and AEG's Phil Anschutz — pitching NFL stadium proposals in City of Industry and downtown L.A., respectively — but that he has yet to engage in negotiations with either. Like his late father, Al Davis, he also touted the Hollywood Park site.
"That's probably the best place to put a stadium," Mark Davis said. "If they use the racecourse land and everything else, it's absolutely the perfect place to do it."
But just because Davis says the clock is ticking on Oakland, and doesn't deny eyeing L.A., doesn't mean he can start packing the moving vans.
No one will get an open layup when it comes to L.A., and the San Diego Chargers, for one, would vigorously oppose any team moving into that market and leaving them to wilt in the shadows.
Relocating a franchise with the blessing of the league — and that blessing is essential to secure financing help from the NFL and Super Bowl commitments — requires a three-quarters-majority vote of the teams. In other words, a move could be blocked by nine votes of no.
You can bet that any team that conceivably would be damaged by such a move — a.k.a. the Chargers — would be working hard to assemble those nine votes.
Two months ago, Stan Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams, quietly bought a 60-acre parking lot that sits between Hollywood Park and the Forum, sufficient space to house a stadium although not enough for the venue and all the parking the league would want.
The Rams, like the Raiders, can get out of their lease after the season. The Chargers are year to year at Qualcomm Stadium, and the city of San Diego cannot sue them to stay.
For Davis, the situation is growing increasingly bleak in Oakland. He has respect for Colony Capital, the developer involved in the Coliseum City project, so he's willing to give the city a bit more time, but his arms are crossed and his foot is tapping.
Frustrated as he is, Davis could be in for a long wait.
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