Raiders continue flirting with Las Vegas as 49ers continue banking Levi's money–and it's all connected – The Mercury News


The Raiders are not yet bound for Las Vegas. But after Thursday, they are theoretically and metaphorically cruising somewhere between Modesto and Fresno on the route to Southern Nevada.

The 49ers are not yet the richest team in the National Football League. But after Thursday, they have to be wondering how much more money they will be worth if they again have the Bay Area to themselves.

All of it is connected. In the NFL, everything is connected to each other, usually with a dollar sign preceding the connection.

And more than ever, Northern California’s two franchises are linked in a business sense, depending on how events spool out.

Thursday’s news from Vegas was that a governmental oversight committee, which was charged with deciding if it would be a good idea to raise local hotel taxes that would pay for almost 40 percent of a proposed Raiders stadium, in fact did decide to recommend the tax — which, of course, would be paid by tourists, not the committee members. This keeps the momentum going on the proposal, although there are still many hurdles to surmount. Nevada’s governor and legislature (with members from all over the state, not just Las Vegas) must now approve the plan. The legislature’s next scheduled meeting is in January, although there’s pressure on the governor to call a special session just to consider the Raiders’ stadium.

The idea is to get things in order so that NFL owners can vote up or down on a franchise move in January, before the Super Bowl. Three quarters of the owners would have to approve.

If everybody seems to be in a rush to get things done, there is a good reason. Or didn’t you see the latest annual Forbes rankings? You know, of the NFL’s most valuable franchises?

The magazine issued those numbers earlier this week. The Dallas Cowboys are No. 1, with an estimated valuation of $4.2 billion. The 49ers were fourth, behind the Patriots and Giants, with an estimated worth of $3 billion and an operating profit of $154 million. The Raiders are 20th with a valuation of $2.1 billion and an operating profit of $46 million, lowest in the league.

So, you wonder why the Raiders want a new stadium? Anywhere? New stadiums are the ATM machines of the 21st Century for NFL teams. The Raiders actually jumped up in value 47 percent this year simply because they might have new stadium possibilities — either in Las Vegas or Los Angeles, or perhaps even Oakland, if that city can finally put together a real proposal.

There’s so much to sort out here, but let’s go over as many points as we can in the space we have available, with special attention to the Raiders’ timeline in the months ahead:

— If you ever doubted why the 49ers wanted to build Levi’s Stadium and move to Santa Clara, the Forbes figures tell the tale. Levi’s may have its critics. Fans who purchased seat licenses to help finance the project may be peeved because of the team’s performance. But the bottom line for the 49ers’ bottom line has been fabulous. Thanks to the Silicon Valley corporate sponsorships, luxury suite leases, the stadium club revenues, as well as those seat licenses and ticket revenue … well, it’s fulfilled every financial expectation for the franchise and more.

— The Raiders, of course, are envious of every other NFL team with a reasonably new stadium, not just the 49ers. So while the focus is on Las Vegas at the moment, they are actually making a three-pronged assault in pursuit of a new home. Los Angeles is hardly off the table. The NFL’s deal with Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke requires him to share his new stadium in Inglewood with another team that agrees to the league’s conditions. The San Diego Chargers have the first option, which expires in January. If the Chargers succeed in getting their own stadium plan passed this autumn, they would obviously not exercise the LA clause. The Raiders would then have the next crack to co-habit with the Rams. That’s another reason Las Vegas wants to rush the Raiders deal. The Nevada folks want team owner Mark Davis to sign with them before any LA option comes open.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, laughs as Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis talks to the media after an NFL owners meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Houston. The owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to a new stadium just outside Los Angeles, and the San Diego Chargers will have an option to share the facility. The Raiders, who also wanted to move to the area, could move to Los Angeles if San Diego doesn’t. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan) 

— Why would the Raiders select Los Angeles instead of Las Vegas? Let us return to those Forbes numbers. Large-market teams are generally worth more than smaller-market teams. The Rams’ valuation increased 100 percent to $2.9 billion simply by moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles, putting them sixth on the list, just ahead of the New York Jets and Chicago Bears. Half of the Los Angeles market is worth a lot more than the Las Vegas market. And yes, the Raiders have been smart enough to use that leverage, quietly reminding Las Vegas officials about the potential LA open door in January.

— Concerns by NFL owners about a franchise moving to America’s gambling capital seem to have abated. The Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, probably the league’s most powerful proprietor, has been warming to the idea. Where Jones leads, his colleagues usually follow.

— Something to remember: This isn’t just about football. Teams with state-of-the-art stadiums make a lot of money from concerts and other sports events held in their stadiums. Jones’ palace in Dallas is a fulcrum of big events. This weekend, Beyoncé is playing at Levi’s Stadium, not at the Oakland Coliseum. The 49ers have hosted host weddings and corporate affairs at Levi’s Stadium, not to mention WrestleMania and the Grateful Dead. Ironically, this could be where the Las Vegas stadium project runs into support problems from the city’s business community. There are already plenty of entertainment venues in Vegas. Some of them may not appreciate a new huge venue coming on line that could take away some of that action — especially with the stadium developers demanding tax breaks that would not apply to those “legacy” venues.

— Is there anything happening in Oakland? Not publicly. A group headed by Hall of Fame 49er and Raider Ronnie Lott has met several times with Oakland and Alameda County officials. But if there has been any traction with the Raiders and NFL, you’d think we would have heard about it by now.

— The 49ers are in the driver’s seat, no matter what happens. Team owner Jed York, who has said that he supports Davis in his new stadium quest (why not?), is a member of the NFL’s Stadium Committee, which monitors the facility-building efforts everywhere. That means York’s voice will carry weight with other owners as all this is decided. Unless a miracle pops up in Oakland, therefore, York will be position to help guide his closest geographic competitor to a soft landing elsewhere — as the 49ers keep ascending on the Forbes list. Life is good in Santa Clara with that $154 million operating income. Life in Oakland isn’t horrible with that $46 million positive number. Both owners thank you for buying those $12 beers. One of them hopes to sell you one in a new stadium soon. The Forbes dashboard explains why.

An aerial photograph taken Sept. 2, 2015, shows Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, and a youth soccer field (lower right) in Santa Clara.
An aerial photograph taken Sept. 2, 2015, shows Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, and a youth soccer field (lower right) in Santa Clara. 


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