Raiders 2019 home games would be split between the unlikely pairing of Tucson and Birmingham, according to a pitch that is surfacing in reports.
Speculation has swirled about where the Oakland Raiders will spend the 2019 season, which is expected to be the last before their new Las Vegas stadium opens in 2020. A lawsuit filed in December by the City of Oakland against the Raiders and the NFL has complicated the possibility of a lease extension at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and the Raiders have not announced firm plans for next season.
An unlikely pairing for the Raiders has emerged in Birmingham and Tucson. A scenario in which the two cities effectively share the Raiders for seven home games next season–one contest is already slated for London–would see Tucson home games played at the University of Arizona’s Arizona Stadium, while Legion Field (above) assumes hosting duties in Birmingham. Backers in both cities believe that, by joining forces, they can pique the interest of the Raiders. More from the Arizona Daily Star:
Under the new plan, released to the Star on Monday night, the cities would split the hosting duties next season. Arizona Stadium holds 57,400 people and is home to the UA football team and the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Birmingham’s Legion Field has a larger capacity — 71,500 — and hosts the UAB college team, the Alliance of American Football’s Birmingham Iron and the annual Birmingham Bowl.
Birmingham city council president William Parker and Tucson attorney Ali Farhang are optimistic that a combined effort will lead to more substantive talks between Raiders owner Mark Davis and the cities. Farhang reached out to Raiders officials last month to express Tucson’s interest in hosting the team for one season.
Although the Raiders still have not pinned down their plans for next season, the concept of a shared Birmingham-Tucson schedule could come with complications that need to be resolved. There is the question of to what extent one or both venues will need upgrades for NFL action, and how they would make plans to accommodate college football and a limited NFL schedule in the fairly limited time between now and the 2019 season. Additionally, the Raiders would effectively be splitting the vast majority of their home games between two cities that are more than 1,500 miles apart. (It is also worth noting that some key Birmingham leaders seemed blindsided by the idea of bringing the Raiders to Legion Field.)
It also does not appear that the Raiders have completely shut the door on Oakland, as evidenced by reports of recent talks between the team and Coliseum officials.
Image courtesy UAB athletics.