Odd how you can hear dominoes falling, all the way from Minnesota.
You could definitely hear them Thursday when the Vikings closed a stadium deal with state politicians to assure that the NFL team will stay in Minneapolis. The situation had been tense for months. At one juncture as negotiations floundered, the private plane of Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf was spotted at a Southern California airport.
That was logical. Los Angeles has no NFL team. Los Angeles wants an NFL team. The NFL wants Los Angeles to have an NFL team. Wilf had an NFL team with an old, outdated stadium. But coincidentally, a few weeks after Wilf's plane made its cameo SoCal appearance, Minnesota came up with acceptable terms.
This wasn't good for Raiders fans who choose to be paranoid about the team possibly moving to L.A. That's probably because the paranoia has a basis in fact -- namely, that it already happened once, 30 years ago. And it certainly could happen again if enough dominoes fall.
The Minnesota deal was a domino because if L.A. officials hoped the Vikings' franchise was a prime candidate to make a move, their eyes will now turn to the next potential prime candidates.
I speak here of the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders. Both teams are in outmoded facilities with lease terms that would allow them to evacuate those facilities over the next few years.
If the Vikings had gone to L.A., the eye-gazing at San Diego and Oakland would
The Raiders? Hmmmmm. Mark Davis, who assumed control of the franchise last autumn after his father's death, has been nothing but honest in his remarks about the topic. At the news conference to introduce new general manager Reggie McKenzie, Davis would not rule out the team building a new stadium anywhere in America. Davis later clarified his stance. During an interview with my fellow Bay Area News Group scribe, Monte Poole, Davis said that Oakland was his "preference."
"I want it to work here," Davis said. "I'd like to stay here. But we have to find a way to (generate more revenue) .... We need to sell more season tickets. We're in a deficit-spending situation, and we need to start getting our revenue up."
Davis' sentiment is surely sincere. But you'll notice that nowhere in those remarks did he promise fans that the Raiders would stay in Oakland. He only expressed his desire to not leave, while providing himself a verbal escape clause, should the team's bottom line not improve.
There are, of course, available other options in the Bay Area. The Raiders could strike a deal to play home games at the 49ers' under-construction stadium in Santa Clara. Also, Davis has spoken vaguely of an East Bay site near Dublin. But if Los Angeles can offer more spectacular terms, how could Davis not listen?
Indeed, after Al Davis' passing, it was reported that he'd held discussions in 2010 or early 2011 with one prospective L.A. stadium developer. Those talks went nowhere because the developer wanted a piece of the Raider franchise as partial payment for building the stadium. Could those discussions be revived with son Mark? Not anytime soon, he has indicated. But "soon" can go by fast in these parts.
Oakland's latest new-stadium fig leaf to the Raiders is a proposed "Coliseum City" complex that envisions new sports venues for the Raiders, A's and Warriors and office/retail buildings. It would be built on acreage contained within and surrounded by the current Coliseum site. The project is outlined in a 185-page "Request For Proposals" that solicits developers to bid and help finance the entire idea.
There have been no takers so far. Common sense tells you that cash-strapped Oakland, no matter how much money a developer brings to the table, will have difficulty building three new major sports facilities -- one each for the Raiders, A's and Warriors. Common sense tells you that Oakland might have trouble finding the means to construct just one new facility -- and that it will have to choose one team above the other two.
Maybe that choice will be the Raiders. Again, it has already happened once. In 1995, the A's proposed a remodel of the Coliseum to make it more baseball-friendly. The city and county responded by turning their back on the A's and instead handed more than $100 million worth of stadium upgrades to the Raiders when they agreed to move back north from Los Angeles.
With the Minnesota domino falling -- and the San Diego domino leaning toward a potential tumble -- the Raiders are in good position to stare down Oakland officials and not blink. Plenty of NFL franchises have utilized Los Angeles as a stalking horse to get better stadium situations. Buffalo did. New Orleans did. Heck, before the Santa Clara stadium became real, the 49ers even made it into the LA rumor mill.
I'm not sure if Mark Davis owns or leases a private plane. But he now has a playbook regarding future strategic tarmac placement. Dominoes, anyone?
Contact Mark Purdy at email@example.com or 408-920-5092.