Most Irwindale Residents Had Given Up Hope Long Ago

TIMES STAFF WRITER

At the watering hole close to the abandoned gravel pit that had been earmarked for the Irwindale Raiders, bartender Michael Wilkinson raised both his hands to quiet the lively lunchtime crowd Monday.

"Hey, guys, it's Oakland!"

He got no response from those at the Rapscallion Seafood House and Bar. No moans of disappointment, no signs of disapproval to the news from Oakland officials that Raiders owner Al Davis had told them the Raiders would be returning to their city.

In August, 1987, Irwindale officials had launched a much-ballyhooed bid to lure the Los Angeles football team to the tiny San Gabriel Valley city of 1,068: $10 million up front to Davis, with the promise of free land and ownership of a new stadium.

But there were numerous obstacles. In September, 1987, Los Angeles City Councilman Ernani Bernardi and a group called Irate Irwindale Residents Advocating the Environment sued to block the project. A Superior Court judge barred Irwindale from negotiating until it got an environmental impact report. Two key negotiators for the city were fired.

Slowly, most Irwindale residents gave up hope that the Raiders would come.

But not all. Even after the announcement Monday, Irwindale Councilman Patricio Miranda refused to concede defeat. "Our offer is still there," he said. "I can't make any more comment than that."

Long before the announcement, however, the city was planning to lift a building moratorium on 17 acres across from the gravel pit that had been planned for development in conjunction with a football stadium.

Some believe Davis used Irwindale to attract better offers from Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles, while still holding on to the $10 million.

"Al Davis is a money-hungry cockroach," John Nagel, 43, of San Bernardino, said at the Rapscallion on Monday.

Added Chuck Thomas, 46, of San Gabriel: "I guess Al Davis won't be high on (Irwindale's) best guy list."

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