Faced with a new lawsuit from the City of Oakland, the Oakland Raiders will have to make a major decision about 2019. The lawsuit seemingly shuts the door on the club returning to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum next season and leaves the Raiders in need of a temporary home until their new Las Vegas stadium opens.
On Tuesday, Oakland filed a lawsuit against the Raiders and the NFL’s 31 other clubs. The lawsuit does not seek to prevent the club’s upcoming Las Vegas move, but instead seeks financial compensation by alleging that the relocation violates antitrust laws and league’s own policies regarding franchise shifts. One of the major near-term implications of the lawsuit is that it likely rules out a Coliseum lease extension that allows the club to return in 2019. The Raiders had shown interest in extending that lease beyond its 2018 expiration, but that had become increasingly doubtful in the months leading up to the lawsuit.
Now, the question is where the club ends up next season. The only existing venue in Las Vegas anywhere close to what is needed for a full season of NFL home games is Sam Boyd Stadium, the current home of UNLV football. However, the aging facility would need plenty of upgrades not just in terms of player facilities, but also technology for television broadcasts. In other words, the amount of work needed to make Sam Boyd Stadium might not be worth the expense, especially with UNLV set to join the Raiders at their new facility in 2020. The team may also prefer their debut in Las Vegas to be part of a big splash that includes the new stadium, rather than a more staggered arrival.
Another option could be for the Raiders to remain in the Bay Area, but shift home games to Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium—the home of the San Francisco 49ers. Levi’s Stadium was designed to accommodate two teams, and the Raiders would be able to extend their relationship with Bay Area fans. This might end up being the most logical option for those reasons, but there are some challenges: the 49ers would have to be okay with the arrangement, and it could pose some challenges, including scheduling and extra wear and tear on the stadium’s turf.
Beyond that, the Raiders would need an NFL-ready option. From both the team and the NFL’s perspective, any facility would ideally be within the western footprint for the purposes of traveling and scheduling.
San Diego’s SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm Stadium) is still in use for SDSU football and, while antiquated, could stand in as an NFL home for one season. However, the Rams and Chargers have tried to make San Diego a part of their base and, with a new stadium of their own set to open in Inglewood in 2020, might not want an NFL squad there.
A similar situation is likely to play out in San Antonio, where the Alamodome is essentially a turn-key option for a short-term NFL stint. San Antonio previously made overtures to lure the Raiders, and still has ambitions of obtaining an NFL team of its own. The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans have had Texas to themselves for years, though, so it remains to be seen if they’d welcome another club.
Beyond those potential destinations, the Raiders could look to existing college facilities in the Bay Area—including Stanford Stadium. There could also be the option of dividing home games among multiple venues, including one home game in an international market—such as London or Mexico City—with remaining games split between a couple of United States facilities.
Another option that could be the subject of some speculation is St. Louis’s Dome at America’s Center, the former home of the Rams. However, with the NFL and the Rams already defendants in a lawsuit there similar to what is playing out in Oakland, that might not be the most feasible option.
The Raiders have made plenty of moves in their history, and Las Vegas will be their latest home once the new stadium opens in 2020. Until then, the door appears to have shut in Oakland, leaving plenty of questions about 2019.
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