The NFL is one step closer to expanding the league to Las Vegas in time for the 2020 NFL season. A ground breaking ceremony was held on November 13th on the site of the soon to be Las Vegas Raiders’ proposed new stadium. The dome that will house 65,000 people and will cost a whopping $1.9 billion and will be located on the Las Vegas Strip.
Raiders owner Mark Davis received 31 out of 32 approval votes to relocate the the team at the NFL Owners Meetings last spring. The team’s relocation has been a major topic of discussion around the NFL over the past several months. Some people like former Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton think that the NFL having a team in Sin City could be a good economic decision.
“I think that it’s a great move. Vegas is the mecca of sports gambling and sports betting. I think it’s going to bring a lot of revenue to a city that already makes a lot of revenue just from the strip and gambling. When you add a football team to the mix I think that’s exactly what they’re missing,” said Wootton on a recent appearance on the Unnecessary Roughness Podcast.
The NHL expanded to Las Vegas this season and it’s team the Las Vegas Golden Knights has already cracked the top 10 in ticket sales according to team owner Bill Foley. One major cause for concern with the NFL expanding to Vegas is that players will be in Las Vegas on Saturday nights before games. If you ask New York Giants offensive tackle Bobby Hart the city will only become a distraction if players allow it to.
“There are a lot of pros and cons that comes with having a team in Vegas. As far as the distractions go that’s just personal and it’s up to the player if they let it become a distraction. Obviously if you let the city become a distraction then it will be,” said Hart.
There are others like Wootton who think that although Vegas has the potential to become a distraction for players during the season, it won’t because coaches won’t allow it.
“It depends on the coach. I played under Lovie Smith so he didn’t do bed checks so it was up to us as players to be responsible enough to be prepared to play the next day. There definitely were some players who stayed out past curfew but they showed up and performed on game day so to each his own. Other teams because of the coach definitely have bed checks in place so that guys aren’t going out past curfew the night before a game.”
Wootton also alluded to the way that the NFL schedule is set up as a reason for Vegas night life not being as big a problem for the players as people think it will be.
“The thing about football is that it’s not like basketball where most of the time you have a night game. You might go out and see some of these basketball players in the club because they have a whole day to prepare for the next game. With football most of these games are at one o’clock in the afternoon so I think you’ll see a lot of teams implement the bed check system. If teams win you’ll see some of the players stay an extra night and then go back home after the off day,” said Wootton.
The Raiders moving from Oakland to Las Vegas affects more than just the players and organization but it also affects the fans of the team. Heading into the off season last year Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr told the Mercury News “We’re not going to split up like you’ve seen other cities do. We’re not going to do things like that. For the ones that do, I don’t really believe that they are true Raider fans. I feel their hurt. I’m with you. I hurt too. But at the same, we’re all in this together and we’re just going to do it together.”
When I asked Wootton his reaction to Carr’s comments he agreed with Carr to some degree saying that fans may be upset with the organization right now but ultimately they’ll stick with their team.”
“It’s tough because so many of the fans in the NFL, NBA or whatever pro sport are so invested in the particular team in the particular city that it’s really tough when the team up and moves. I live in St. Louis right now and I talked to a lot of people when the Rams moved from here to Los Angeles. They were so upset when they left because that’s what they look forward to every Sunday,” said Wootoon.
“Oakland is known for being a die hard football city so it’s the same situation. It’s tough because people are truly hurt because it’s like they’ve lost part of their life almost. I think that it will definitely hurt at first but ultimately fans will stick with them because that’s their team despite the fact that they’re leaving the city. It’s not like they’ll go from rooting for Oakland to rooting for San Francisco because as a fan that’s just not something you do”.
Hart however had a different opinion and believes that it’s ultimately up to the fans to make that decision saying “At the end of the day that’s up to the fans to decide and the fans should be allowed to make their own decision on that. The mindset of the fan might be that they don’t want to be fans because they can’t go to the games anymore.”
The Raiders new stadium is expected to be finished in time for them to relocate for the start of the 2020 NFL season. Whether people are for it or against it one thing that everyone can agree on is that the NFL in Vegas will be something interesting to watch unfold.