Advertisement

ANALYSIS : Raiders Will Stay Put if Coliseum Is Ready : Pro football: Davis simply wants the improvements that he was promised when the team moved south.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They are not going to be the Orlando Raiders.

Nor the Baltimore Raiders. Nor the St. Louis Raiders. Nor the Memphis Raiders.

Not this season.

And not as long as owner Al Davis believes he can work with the Coliseum Commission to get the 71-year-old stadium not only back to where it was before it was damaged by the January earthquake, but up to where it is eventually supposed to be in terms of long-sought renovations.

Advertisement

It appears that the Raiders, perhaps leaving an escape route to Oakland open, are going to remain in Los Angeles despite rumors that have them heading east. None of the talks with any of those interested cities have ever reached the serious stage.

A Coliseum spokeswoman said she was told that Raider season-ticket renewal applications will be mailed this weekend, a sign that the club is staying.

The Raiders would not confirm that report.

Don C. Webb, project manager of the Coliseum rebuilding operation, an enterprise that will cost nearly $35 million, has assured the team that the stadium will open Sept. 1, 11 days before the Raiders’ first home game. Capacity will probably be scaled down from last season’s 67,800 to about 50,000 at first.

Advertisement

A Coliseum official also has assured the Raiders that the seismic reinforcing work now going on will be of sufficient strength to support luxury boxes.

So at least some of that $35 million will go toward improving the Coliseum, rather than merely bringing it back to where it was before 4:31 a.m. on Jan. 17.

At this point, only a major problem in the rebuilding of the Coliseum would keep the Raiders out. And in that case, they would would search for a one-year, stop-gap home somewhere in Southern California or in Oakland.

Said Amy Trask, in charge of legal affairs for the Raiders: “When we were in Orlando (for league meetings) in March, Mr. Davis said we were still in Los Angeles and we want to stay in Los Angeles, but there is a tremendous cloud of uncertainty with respect to the Coliseum. Our position has not changed.”

It is that concern over the condition of the Coliseum that has kept the Raiders from signing a new lease with stadium officials and has kept the team from sending out season-ticket renewals.

Davis also wants the improvements he says have long been promised to him, but he is in a difficult position. It would look bad for him to be demanding luxury boxes when $35 million is being spent on repairing the stadium.

Still, he believes he is entitled to those improvements, which were used to lure him from Oakland 12 years ago.

“Everyone knows that commitments were made to create a state-of-the-art facility within the confines of the historic Coliseum,” Trask said.

Advertisement

“We expect and we believe that everyone understands that there is to be a program to create that state-of-the-art facility, but we also realize the community has suffered from a natural disaster.”

Davis has not used the earthquake damage as an excuse to leave. He hasn’t been traveling the country in search of a new home for his team.

He says he wants to stay in Los Angeles, ideally in a new stadium but practically in the Coliseum, with the improvements he says were promised long ago.

Yes, the governor of Maryland, William Schaefer, an old friend and a man in search of a team for Baltimore, called Davis and tried to interest him in a deal.

And yes, city officials in Orlando, where Davis was attending league meetings, asked him to tour their stadium and made him offers.

But that’s old news.

Davis listened. He certainly didn’t mind if the Coliseum Commission knew he was listening, and he didn’t care if newspaper stories chronicled the comments and offers.

This is a man who deals in intimidation, who respects power. He needs a few cards in his hand when he sits down at the table with Coliseum officials.

Advertisement

They once laughed at Jack Kent Cooke when he threatened to pull his Lakers out of the Sports Arena if his terms weren’t met.

They weren’t laughing when the Forum went up.

And at some point, if Davis doesn’t get what he wants, he figures to do the same as Cooke, here or elsewhere.

But this doesn’t appear to be that point.

For now, at least, the Raiders understand the tough situation the Coliseum Commission and the entire region is in. But don’t expect them to sign any long-term deals or stop listening to lucrative offers or stop looking at land until those luxury boxes and the rest of the renovations have been completed.

Times staff writer Kenneth Reich contributed to this story.


Advertisement