Officials in Oakland have stepped up their efforts to keep the Oakland Raiders NFL American football franchise in the Californian city by approving the opening of talks over a potential new $1.3bn (€1.2bn) stadium project.
The Raiders have been heavily linked with a move away from Oakland, with Las Vegas, Nevada, cited as the most likely destination. Franchise owner Mark Davis has spoken openly of his desire to relocate to Vegas, with plans already approved for the construction of a new $1.9bn stadium in the city.
However, keen to keep the franchise in California, Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors have given the go-ahead for discussions to take place with an investment group that would back the 55,000-seat stadium project. The group, led by NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and former Raiders quarterback Rodney Peete, will now have the right to negotiate on a formal agreement for the $1.3bn stadium that includes $350m in public funds.
The parties have identified $1.25bn in potential financing for the proposed venue, with the group to invest $400m, the Raiders and the NFL contributing $500m between them, and the city providing $200m for infrastructure. The city would also contribute a minimum of 100 acres of land, valued at $150m.
“We still have a long way to go,” Lott said, according to ESPN.com. “We still have to convince the NFL. We still have to convince Mark Davis. We’ve got a long way to go, but today is a great day and a great moment for Raider Nation.”
The team has long been unhappy with its current O.Co Coliseum home, which it shares with MLB baseball outfit Oakland Athletics. In February, the Raiders signed a one-year lease extension to remain at the facility for the 2016 season, with an option to extend for the 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
The team also has the option to move to the Los Angeles and share a facility with the Rams, which recently relocated to the city from St. Louis. The Raiders must secure approval from at least 24 of the 32 NFL owners in order to move, and a vote could take place as early as next month.
The Raiders previously relocated to compete in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994, before returning to Oakland in 1995, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said he would be reluctant to see the city lose its franchise for a second time.