In 1983, still smarting from the loss of the Raiders to Los Angeles, Oakland welcomed an upstart football league hoping to challenge the hegemony of the National Football League to play its games at the Oakland Coliseum. With the Raiders now heading to Las Vegas, history may repeat itself with another ambitious league looking to the fill the void in the East Bay.
The second-iteration of the XFL, a venture owned by WWE magnate Vince McMahon, is eyeing Oakland for one of its eight franchises, according to Chris Dobbins, a member of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority that oversees operations of the Coliseum and Oracle Arena.
“We’re looking at all opportunities since the Raiders are probably leaving after next year,” said Dobbins.
An agenda item for Friday morning’s Coliseum JPA meeting included discussion of the XFL in closed session. Dobbins, though, said the meeting is cancelled due to an expected lack of a quorum.
Dobbins believes the XFL first reached out to the JPA about its interest in hosting of one of its eight new franchises. The potential partnership fits in line with discussions at the JPA earlier this year that pointed to interest in bringing second-tier leagues and minor league sports to the Coliseum and Oracle Arena, in order to fill its calendar of events and, at least, replenish some revenues lost when the Raiders leave for Las Vegas and the Warriors will move to San Francisco in the next two years.
Oakland and Alameda County each pay more than $10 million a year to pay off debt for remodeling the Coliseum and arena in the late 1990s. The total debts is more than $100 million.
Hopes of attracting a WNBA franchise were also mentioned earlier this year by some JPA members. A local group is also attempting to bring a United Soccer League second-division soccer club to Oakland. If an Oakland soccer franchise proves successful, it could also mean a jump to Major League Soccer. In recent years, several USL teams have become MLS franchises, including last month, with F.C. Cincinnati.
But the new XFL is expected to begin play in 2020 with a 10-week season that occupies a hole in the sports calendar between Super Bowl Sunday and the beginning of the baseball season in late March and early April.
Whereas the first XFL was gimmicky with hints of pro wrestling, this version is slated to be similar to conventional football, but also discourage the involvement of politics into the game.
Oakland’s USFL franchise was named the Invaders, a slight rhyming riff on the Raiders name, and played the league’s only three seasons (1983-85) at the Coliseum. The San Francisco Demons, the Bay Area’s XFL franchise, played its lone season in 2001 at AT&T Park.