Less than two months after the Pac-12 Conference played its football championship at a half-filled Levi’s Stadium, conference officials decided to opt out of the final year in their contract with the venue, freeing them to shop around.
And that could mean a move to Las Vegas. Or maybe even the new NFL stadium in Inglewood.
The agreement between the conference and the San Francisco 49ers’ home in Santa Clara runs through 2020 but allows the Pac-12 to withdraw after next season’s championship. Commissioner Larry Scott said the time felt right to search elsewhere.
“Look, it’s a premium sporting event in the region and not something that is available very often,” he said. “I think we’ll have a lot of good options and we’re looking forward to considering all of them.”
The urge to relocate shouldn’t be surprising, given the announced crowd of 35,134 that showed up for Washington’s victory over Utah in a low-scoring affair in late November. Attendance might get a boost if the game were moved to a destination city.
“There are a variety of factors that go into what’s an ideal location,” Scott said. “Certainly appeal of the market to fans is going to be an important criterion.”
From the outset of the contract with Levi’s, “both parties agreed to leave open the option for the conference to explore other new venues that would become available throughout the region,” according to a joint statement released Friday. Two such venues come immediately to mind.
The new Raiders stadium in Las Vegas is scheduled for a 2020 opening in a city that already hosts the Pac-12 basketball tournament. The venue in Inglewood, which will be shared by the Rams and Chargers, is looking at a similar finish date.
That puts both stadiums in the running for a football championship established in 2011, after the conference expanded to 12 schools and split into North and South divisions. The game was first played at Levi’s Stadium in 2014.
Pac-12 officials have not ruled out the possibility remaining in Santa Clara under a new contract. Asked about when a decision might be made, Scott said: “We don’t have a specific timetable.”