Raiders execs throw dart at map, pick San Antonio as place to visit for move threat

With their rivals in the development rights land rush the Oakland A’s already having played the move threat card, it was only a matter of time before the Raiders did the same. The only question was which city owner Mark Davis would play footsie with, and it looks like the winner is … San Antonio? Sure, San Antonio.

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and two top lieutenants met recently with several San Antonio officials to discuss the potential of moving his NFL team from the Bay Area to the Alamo City, local leaders involved in the talks confirmed Tuesday…

Late Tuesday, after the Express-News published a version of this story on its websites, [city manager Sheryl] Sculley issued a memo to the City Council.

“I was asked to meet two weeks ago with the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff. Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio and we are engaged in preliminary due diligence,” she wrote. “The agenda for this visit included a tour of the Alamodome and meetings with local business leaders.”

This is, of course, what sports team owners do when they’re seeking a new stadium — in the words of Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, “go, and have a nice dinner and come back.” San Antonio’s even been through this before in the recentish past with the Florida Marlins in 2006, though then local officials had the good sense to tell the Marlins to quit using them just to make Miami jealous.

Savvy leverage notwithstanding, would moving the Raiders to San Antonio make any sense? San Antonio is a relatively tiny TV market (36th overall) compared to the Bay Area, but, of course, TV market size doesn’t mean nearly as much in the NFL as it does in other sports where local cable deals are in play. The bigger problem is San Antonio’s stadium: The Alamodome is 21 years old, and while it’s no doubt a fine enough place to watch a football game (assuming anyone really likes watching football games from anywhere other than their own couch), NFL teams have made it quite clear that any building over two decades old is considered a dump.

Is there a possibility that these Raiders-San Antonio talks will get serious, and San Antonio will dangle a sweetheart lease and maybe some new scoreboards in an attempt to lure an NFL team? Sure. Is it something Oakland fans and elected officials should be losing sleep over at the moment? Probably not. As my Sports on Earth colleague Mike Tanier writes:

Remember that NFL owners will do anything to make you pay for stadium improvements. If all it takes is a leaked story about driving around the Alamodome and having drinks with city council representatives, we are making things too easy for them. They should at least be subjected to used-car salesman humiliations. A couple from San Antonio were looking at this team just yesterday, and that’s them on the phone right now, so give me a yes, fast! Let me bring that to my sales manager.

25 comments on “Raiders execs throw dart at map, pick San Antonio as place to visit for move threat

  1. The thing that bugs me from most of these stories is the “would the league approve it????? would the Cowboys and Texans block it????????” nonsense. There’s been a federal ruling out there for 30 + years for crying out loud. If Davis had a billion dollars sitting around, he could move to downtown Dallas is he wanted to, and Jerry couldn’t do a thing. That’s obviously an absurd hypothetical, but San Antonio eventually getting a team, regardless of however legitimate this negotiation is or isn’t, is a very real possibility.

    As for the Raiders, I don’t doubt that this is right now primarily a play to get his way in Oakland, but given the funding gaps that exist, not to mention the fact that everyone can’t even agree on the right concept for a football stadium, I think this gets more realistic everyday those hurdles remain. He’s not getting public money out of Oakland, LA or any other CA city, he doesn’t have enough ownership to raise an obscene amount of money by selling off a minority, and while I don’t know about a new stadium, San Antonio could probably pass the $200 million to bring the dome up to current NFL standards within the next two weeks.

  2. At least the Alamodome makes more sense for football (which it was designed for) than baseball. There is still not a lot of room outside of the seating bowl for things like team stores and multilevel dining areas. The lack of a true club level would also be a problem.

    But, nothing that throwing money at the problem won’t fix.

    As I said, makes more sense than the A’s moving to San Antonio but still needs lots of work.

  3. “San Antonio could probably pass the $200 million to bring the dome up to current NFL standards within the next two weeks.”

    And about 2 weeks after the $200 million in improvements is finished, the cry will go up for a new, state-of-the-art money pit. I hope the folks in San Antonio are savvy enough to understand that.

  4. I’m unclear what the Raiders actually expect the City of Oakland to do. Is this big fuss because they signed the deal with the A’s? Are the Raiders really saying that the A’s have to leave ‘their’ area so that they can start on some new stadium/development deal that has, as of yet, shown very little promise of becoming a reality?

    IMHO, nothing big is going to happen in Oakland for either team in the near term. The City is simply not in the position to put up the money. (People do remember the Mt. Davis fiasco.) The best outcome the City can hope for is that neither team has a realistic move option. It seems likely that this will indeed be the case for a while.

  5. @ Dave Boz – I agree completely. Not saying it’s a good idea, just that the nature of San Antonio would indicate that they’d give him what he wants. Honestly, they’d probably pay for most of a new stadium within 5 or 10 years (for the record, I think any talk of a new place is absurd – the dome is perfectly fine for NFL football as is with the exception of not having enough suites. And it’s not some sprawling college stadium (65,000 seats) so I’m not sure how much smaller or intimate a place he’d be looking for.)

    One thing I’d be interested to know re: the G-4 fund is how long a relocated team would have to be in a new city before they’d be eligible for league money. We know that relocated teams aren’t allowed access to those funds, but I don’t know that there’s a set time limit on when they would be eligible once they’ve moved. That could be an idea behind playing at the Alamodome short-term and then building a new place a few years later.

    I will also say that while I think there could be something to this down the road, the melodramatic bit about how he “just wants a place to put a statue up of his dad” definitely makes me skeptical that this is anything right now other than trying to spook the locals.

  6. Vinne, that’s exactly why I don’t think this is necessarily an empty threat. Oakland can’t get anything done in the near term, and likely long term too. They can’t put up any public funding as they have none (and still have $180 million of the last ill advised Coliseum rebuild to pay off), and the NFL won’t give them any G4 funding unless they do. That means the Raiders planned stadium remains $700 million short of what they need to build ONLY the stadium. Not even including what would be needed to purchase (or pay off via eminent domain) land owners across I-880 to build the rest of the cockamamie Coliseum City plan (nevermind the cost of a ballpark which would be needed if Wolff doesn’t get control of the site to offset his costs). So Oakland is a non-starter at this point.

    Santa Clara has been repeatedly dismissed by the Raiders, and the Niners aren’t too keen to share anymore by what they’re saying. And LA remains a non-starter for the Raiders as the first team since they have neither the money to do a stadium in LA themselves, nor the ownership shares to sell off and partner with AEG or Ed Roski. San Antonio meanwhile has a stadium that is better than the Coliseum in every respect, is 30 years newer, and is in a state that is football rabid (rather than a region that is entrenched as fans of their crosstown rival Niners leaving the Raiders to artificially shrink their stadium just to barely avoid blackouts).

  7. Dan – nice post and I appreciate your thoughts. I would have to disagree with you, though, that SA has a stadium better than the Coliseum “in every aspect”. I’ve been to the Alamodome on several occasions. It is a sterile environment that seems better suited to hosting high school football and soccer games. San Antonio reminds me of Sacramento – not quite the big city it wants to be but a nice place to live none the less.

  8. Neil constantly craps on San Antonio while conveniently forgetting that Austin is only an hour up the road and would arguably share the market. Combine their TV numbers and you’re talking 1,639,600, which would be good for 16th-largest (and one of the fastest growing). Combine their metro populations and you’re talking 4,160,601, good for 15th-largest. This is especially notable considering that, of the 50 largest metro areas, Austin is the fastest-growing and San Antonio is the 4th-fastest-growing. San Antonio is also the gateway to the burgeoning Hispanic population, and you’d likely get pretty much all of south and west Texas and large chunks of Mexico by moving there.

    I’m not saying the Raiders or A’s or anyone is moving to Central Texas, but it’s an underrated market that only has the Spurs and the University of Texas to show for it.

  9. Dean, after all the feces that has backed up into the Coliseum in recent years a sterile environment might be just what the Raiders need.

  10. Erik: Except if you’re going to combine markets that are 80 miles apart, you need to merge Tampa and Orlando as well, and probably some others. So San Antonio gets knocked back down a few notches again.

    Sure, San Antonio is a legit small market now, and maybe a legit small-to-mid-sized market in another 5-10 years. Local TV markets don’t really matter for the NFL, though, so why are we debating this again?

  11. Sounds like a nice plan. Mark you should go for it… And when the A’s play in the World Series, Mark you are cordially invited to throw out the first pitch.

  12. Dan,

    Good points. I would agree the Raiders have a viable move threat for at least the following reasons. First, I think the Coliseum City project is a pipe dream at this point. I haven’t heard anything at this point to believe differently. Secondly, as Neil often points out, finding a large media market isn’t that important for football teams.

    The A’s, on the other hand, do not want to give up their share of the lucrative Bay Area market. If they were to do so, I wouldn’t be surprised if another team like Kansas City made a play for the East Bay.

    What really gets me is the absurdity of the Raiders demands. It appears like they’re asking for the A’s to be kicked out and that huge public funding helps them build a new stadium. Those are incredible demands for anywhere. The city and county simply can’t afford a huge public subsidy (financially or politically), especially since they’re still paying off the improvements needed to lure the Raiders back in the first place.

    My hunch is that the Raiders know all of this and are simply trying to get the sympathy of the league by making the case that they have no long-term options in Oakland. This is exactly what Wolff is trying to do with the MLB.

  13. The fellow who owned the Vikings before me, Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, is a used car salesman from San Antonio. He wanted to move the Vikes there, and when Katrina hit he helped his buddy Bensen play some games in the Alamodome and again there were rumors that the Saints might make it permanent.

    If an NFL team comes sniffing around San Antonio I’d venture that old Red would work on a way to wet his beak and get a piece of the action one way or another. Of course he’s not as slick as I am. I got these rubes to build me a billionaire’s palace. Old Red didn’t know p.r. from his elbow and they laughed and called him a carpetbagger when he asked for a handout, poor schmuck. He figured out they’d never give his Texan ass a dollar of public stadium cash so he sold out to me. As they say down south of the Pecos… Yeehaw!

  14. I guarantee you when the Raiders vacate, a movement will emerge to put a team in San Francisco.

  15. Name change: Go back to the original name for the Oakland franchise of the AFL. The Señors. with all the Hispanics in central Texas…Here they are!!! YOUR! San Antonio Señors!!!!!

  16. Erik: Spent a fair amount of time in Austin. Nobody I knew there had Spurs season tickets, or even thought to go to games regularly. And that was when I-35 was a relatively useful road to travel. Maybe to outsiders it looks like one giant metro market. But to people living there, not even close. Plus, Austin already has a ‘professional’ football team.

  17. Erik, Austin would make a ton of sense except that the University of Texas has a long standing prohibition on anything other than UT events at its facilities. And even Rick Perry’s not crazy enough to build a new NFL-only facility from scratch… (I hope)

    I do think there’s a large measure of Davis the younger pretending to be offended by the A’s deal as an excuse to weasel out of Oakland. If only Anschutz hadn’t been a greedy so-and-so and wanted too much rent (RENT? In this “let’s bend over and give the NFL whatever they want” age of ours?) it’d be LA Raiders 2.0 now. I think Mark’s looking at San Antonio simply because he’s out of good options (I mean besides staying in Oakland)

  18. Santa Clara is awesome. I wouldn’t care about the Niner stuff. I’d be too busy counting the receipts.

  19. Neil: I mention TV market because it’s one of the ways you crap on San Antonio in MLB relocation discussions.

    One could also note that Orlando and Tampa, for the purpose of sports, more or less are one market. Note that no major sports league in America has a team in both areas, unless you’re arguing Arena Football is a major sport (NFL, MLB, & NHL in Tampa; NBA & soon MLS in Orlando).

  20. Michael:

    I lived in Texas for nearly 20 years, so it’s not as though my comments are an ‘outside perspective.’

    The Spurs are more a San Antonio thing and market themselves as such. Basketball isn’t crazy popular in Central Texas, after all. Baseball and football are both massively popular (both in Texas and nationally), however, and I wouldn’t count against their success. I live in downtown Denver these days and constantly interact with people living in Fort Collins, Greeley, Boulder, and Colorado Springs at Rockies & Broncos games. Nuggets games? Not so much – they’re pretty much all Denver folks.

  21. Eddie D: “I guarantee you when the Raiders vacate, a movement will emerge to put a team in San Francisco.”
    Um, what sort of team?? Pro Lacrosse?? Polo??? Because San Francisco pretty much has everything else.

  22. Erik G said: “One could also note that Orlando and Tampa, for the purpose of sports, more or less are one market.”
    If that’s the case, then, wow, that makes the 19 blackouts Tampa Bay had from 2010-2012 — yes that’s right, 19 blackouts out of 24 home games — look even WORSE.
    Bucks ranked 29th in attendance out of 32 teams last year. And that was the BEST they’ve done in awhile.

    Not saying they don’t have fans in Orlando, but those guys obviously are staying away from the stadium just as much as Tampa-Clearwater fans are.

  23. Jason: That’s beside the point I was trying to make, but sure. Florida fans are notoriously apathetic towards teams that aren’t good. It doesn’t escape me that you ignored the Lightning being in the top 10 in attendance two years in a row in the NHL (10th last year, 8th the year prior). Hell, in ’05-’06, the Lightning were 2nd in the league in attendance while averaging over-capacity crowds.

    Nonetheless, my point was that some areas, for the sake of TV, are more or less the same market. This matters for baseball, where local market contracts are a big part of the game. The NFL, only having 8 games a year, just needs roughly 60,000 bodies to show up every weekend. I’d be blown away if you can’t get 60,000 Texans to show up every weekend in the San Antonio/Austin area. If San Antonio offers them nice digs, why wouldn’t the Raiders consider that? Especially when their Latino popularity would probably surge to even higher heights.

  24. Erik: Oh, for MLB purposes it’s totally legitimate to crap on San Antonio. Not only is MLB far more sensitive to market size, but it’s far more sensitive to geographical size — because so many games are on weeknights, it becomes far less workable for fans to drive 80 miles each way after work and back home again. (For football games that’s far less of an issue.)

    I do think San Antonio will likely get an MLB team eventually, if it keeps growing. But it’s probably 10-20 years away.

  25. As predicted, Billy Jo’s got his nose in the pie already: