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Does Vegas’s NFL Hopes Ride on San Diego?

Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design

What’s the clearest path for Las Vegas to land the Oakland Raiders? Approval for a new downtown San Diego Chargers and a whole lot of NFL owners approving the move. But there is a very plausible roadmap for the Oakland to Vegas move.

When the NFL approved the move of the Rams to Los Angeles and left open the possibility of the Chargers or the Raiders to join them, league officials perhaps didn’t realize what sort of drama would be engendered by the open-ended nature of the configuration. But drama we have. Giving San Diego a year to work out a stadium solution may have been a good way to push locals to approve a new Chargers facility, but it ended up generating some unintended side effects: freezing any decision the Raiders would make on a new Oakland stadium and stall efforts by Las Vegas to lure the first major sports team in city history.

Now, we’ve been covering the San Diego stadium situation on an almost-daily basis, so you can see the drama in action. But the bottom line is that San Diego voters must approve any new-stadium proposal, most likely by a majority (50%+1) basis. If that happens, the Chargers would stay in town, leaving the Raiders free to move to Los Angeles.

But wait a second — it’s bad for Las Vegas for the Raiders to move to Los Angeles, even though that would be financially advantageous for Mark Davis and crew. (Indeed, the word is that the NFL and Rams owner Stan Kroenke agreed to a $1/year annual lease at a new stadium in order to raise the league profile in LA.) So, interestingly, the best thing for Las Vegas would be for voters to reject a new San Diego stadium, causing the Chargers to move to Los Angeles. With the road to LA blocked, the Raiders would naturally turn to Las Vegas and a new stadium there, per Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“If the Chargers get a stadium, that would open up Los Angeles for the Raiders,” said Vincent Bonsignore, a Los Angeles Daily News columnist who has covered the city’s 20-year hunt to bag an NFL franchise again. “But if all the dominoes fall for Las Vegas, I think the Raiders would jump on that and there would be no waiting game. I think Las Vegas would be their first choice.”

Bonsignore said well-placed league sources have indicated Kroenke, Spanos, Dallas owner Jerry Jones and Houston owner Bob McNair would be likely to vote in favor of the Raiders’ relocation to Las Vegas and sway other owners, as well. Kroenke prefers to own the Los Angeles market, and Spanos wants it to remain an option for the Chargers. Jones and McNair prefer to keep the Raiders away from San Antonio.

“I do think it could get approved in Las Vegas,” Bonsignore said. “I believe they will have some powerful people get behind it. Keeping that second spot open in L.A. is pretty important. When you start playing connect-the-dots, it makes sense for some people other than Mark Davis.”

Of course, there’s one angle Youmans downplays: many insiders think the Raiders could still move to San Diego and accept a cheaper new stadium next to Qualcomm Stadium. Oh, the drama.

Renderings courtesy San Diego Chargers and Manica Architecture.

RELATED STORIES: Chargers Push Downtown San Diego Stadium at Rally; Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design Renderings Released; City Attorney Criticizes Citizens’ Plan; Chargers Meeting With Citizens’ Plan Advocates; Convadium Facing Local Scrutiny; Chargers Begin Stadium Initiative; Chargers Pitch “Convadium”

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August Publications