|View of O.co Coliseum from the parking lot.|
OAKLAND | Under the NFL’s bylaws, franchises that want to relocate to another city must first allow fans to have their voices heard. The practice of the NFL, however, when it comes to building costly stadiums, is to leverage fans’ fears about a team leaving to pressure municipalities into funding stadium construction with taxpayers’ money. However, if NFL executives on Thursday night at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre were expecting citizens of Raider Nation to provide that leverage, and help pressure Oakland city officials into such a deal, they must be sorely disappointed.
Raiders’ super fan Ray Perez, aka “Dr. Death,” may have best summed up the night when he told team owner Mark Davis: “When I want a house built, I don’t ask the City of Oakland to give me a check.”
Although Davis never directly asked for public money at last night’s event, it seemed clear that he wants it — and needs it. The Raiders are proposing to build a $900 million stadium at the Coliseum, but only have identified $500 million in private funds to get the job done. “We need help from the community as well to get something that our fans and the NFL can be proud of,” said Davis. “We don’t have that right now. We’ve been trying for at least the past six years, every day, hundreds of hours, people in this organization trying to get something done.” He later added, “It could be done in Oakland if everybody pulls together.”
But during the three-hour town hall, there was barely any reference made by fans of using public funding to help close the Raiders’ $400 million funding gap. Instead, many of those decked out in silver and black had alternative funding proposals for Eric Grubman, the NFL’s point man in the race by three franchises, including the Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and San Diego Chargers, to move to the long-vacant Los Angeles market.
A few fans proposed to crowdsource funding for a new stadium. Grubman called the idea “awesome,” but kindly dismissed it. “I don’t think it would be fair for us to ask you to do that,” he told a speaker. Another asked whether ownership of the team could be divvied up in public stocks and sold to fans, an ownership structure used by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.