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The NFL owners have voted (by a vote of 31-1) to allow the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas. What’s not clear is exactly when the move will take place. A new $1.9 billion dollar stadium (which would make it the most expensive stadium to date) is planned to be built in Las Vegas but is not scheduled to be open until 2020.
The Raiders will play in Oakland in 2017 and have an option in Oakland for 2018. Whether Oakland will still want them in 2018 is probably an open question and, in any case, with the new stadium not ready until 2020, arrangements will need to be made for a stadium and a city to play in for the 2019 season.
This article from a week ago in the San Jose Mercury News discusses the business plan and economics of the move for both the city of Las Vegas and for the Raiders.
Las Vegas will provide $750 million for the new $1.9 billion, 65,000 seat indoor stadium via the sale of bonds that will be repaid over 30 years by an increase in a hotel room tax. Las Vegas city leaders forecast that the new stadium will draw an additional 450,000 visitors per year who will spend an average of 3.2 days per visit. They also forecast that about a third of the Raider tickets will be purchased by these visitors although no other city in the NFL averages even 10 percent of tickets by visitors. Stanford economics professor Roger Noll is highly skeptical of the plan stating that none of the city’s assumptions have ever taken place anywhere. He states that “the probability that it could happen isn’t zero, but it’s pretty close to zero.”
I’m not an economist, but I share professor’s assessment of the city’s assumptions. That said, I think that Las Vegas could support an NFL team. The population of its Combined Statistical Area of 2.3 million is 27th in the United States, so it would be a mid-market franchise. I don’t know who else would also be fans of the new Las Vegas Raiders. My memory is that the north Nevada population center of Reno tends to support the Bay Area teams and my guess is that they split 50/50 between being fans of either the San Francisco or the Oakland teams. Also, I’d guess that most Bay Area Raiders fans will find other interests during football season. And, the idea that Los Angeles, which now has two NFL teams and where the Raiders played from 1992-1994, would provide any substantial fan base is a pipe dream. In the meantime, there should be plenty of seats available at Oakland-Alameda Stadium during Raiders games starting in 2017.