After years of waiting, the city of Las Vegas has now added two professional sports teams in less than a year. The NFL voted Monday on the Oakland Raiders relocation application, and Adam Schefter is reporting it passed 31-1, with only the Miami Dolphins voting against it. The Raiders will likely spend two more years in Oakland before moving to the desert after the 2018 season. They will join the new Golden Knights NHL franchise.
As a native of Las Vegas, I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, I’m excited to see my city get a pair of professional sports teams. On the other hand, they join the long list of cities willing to give up a large amount of corporate welfare to make it happen. The city and county will provide $750 million in direct stadium funding, plus they will spend another $200 million in infrastructure improvements around the stadium location. As far as I know, that is by far the largest public subsidy for a stadium in American sports history.
People will argue about the benefits of a stadium, but studies have long proven a basic stadium subsidy is not nearly as valuable as the team and city officials make it out to be. There is certainly value, and in some instances, it can indeed help spur revitalization. The 49ers got approximately $200 million in financial benefits in building their stadium, and while even that is too much in my mind, the 49ers were still left paying for a sizable chunk of the stadium.
But either way, Las Vegas now has a football team to go along with its hockey team. What I am most intrigued about it is how this impacts the views of gambling. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it changes nothing and they still don’t view it as a positive, but sticking a team in the city will hopefully lead to some progress in their views. The NFL really only cares about money, and in spite of what Goodell says about other industries growing there and so forth, it all comes down to the NFL securing a huge public subsidy they could not get in Oakland.
It is disappointing to see the Raiders leave the Bay Area ... again. I think they have the kind of fan base that will be fine with the move, but it will be interesting to see what happens to the next generation or two of Bay Area kids without a football team. The NFL could still add another team to the Bay Area at some point, but if they don’t, will the next generation of kids whose parents love the Raiders grow up to be 49ers fans? Or will it take a couple generations to dilute the Bay Area Raiders fan population?