Las Vegas Raiders Report Senior NFL Writer Scott Winter is attending the NFL Owners Meetings this week and was able to sit down with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis.
ORLANDO, Fla. — The NFL Owners Meetings are always a great place for a scribe to find stories and angles. The teams, their owners, coaches and staff are more relaxed and at ease than usual, which makes for great opportunities to sit and talk to the “Who’s Who” of the NFL. That includes Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis.
It was before the first day’s activities when Scott Bair, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area and I happened to find Davis in a relaxed and talkative mood. While we all had a million questions for the often underestimated Davis, talk of Las Vegas, the move from Oakland and the future were my focus in this small conclave in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Lakes Orlando hotel.
Just a few days removed from an approval of the team’s stadium plan by the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, Davis is seeking his fellow owners’ approval of Las Vegas’$1.8 billion domed stadium just off the famed Las Vegas Strip. With only the formality of NFL approval on the agenda for these meetings, I was able to ask Davis about the structure and topics we often get from fans in Las Vegas and Raider Nation.
Most notably, Davis said the new stadium’s roof would not be retractable, as planned, after discussions with Arizona Cardinals owner Mike Bidwell. Bidwell told Davis that University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale only opens its roof about five times a year.
“It just did not make sense financially for that,” he said. “The natural grass field I was adamant about. Mike has been a huge help. We got a lot of good input because they have a stadium in the desert with similar conditions to what we are doing.”
Instead of a retractable roof, the Raiders’ new home will include a textured, tinted polymer roof that will allow natural light to shine in while keeping the oppressive heat out.
Davis also said he has been watching closely the success of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. The expansion team has taken the city by storm and broken virtually every record possible for a first-year club. The team, which endeared itself to the community during the events of the 1 October attack, continues to work hard and win over new fans. Davis, who is often seen attending home games, had nothing but praise.
“The Vegas Golden Knights have done a phenomenal job in reaching out to the community and the schools,” Davis said of his neighbor a mile down I-15. “They are really showing the value of what a sports franchise brings.”
While 2020 is merely two years away with Las Vegas the future of the Raiders, Davis said the team would play in Oakland in 2018 and desires to work out a lease agreement with Oakland Coliseum for 2019.
“We want to play there, but they have to be reasonable as well,” he said. “We’ll see. We haven’t gotten into serious talking stages. It’s not a problem finding a place to play for a year, but we seriously want to play that in Oakland and bring a championship to that city.”
Despite the discomfort and uniqueness of serving both the Oakland and Las Vegas markets, Davis said the team remains true to itself in both areas.
“We’re in Oakland, and so we serve the Oakland market and the great fans there,” he said. “But we have started doing things in the Las Vegas community also.”
Asked about recent Raiders community events in Las Vegas and whether locals could expect more when the Raiders arrive in 2020, Davis was adamant in his team’s support.
“When we come it will be like an Army coming into Las Vegas,” he said. “With the former players, the Alumni, and the organization, Las Vegas and Nevada have never had anything like that, per se. Those are the things of value that a team can bring.
“That’s the thing that gets overlooked … we’re in the community 365 days a year. Also, the stadium serves the community, as well. UNLV will have their games, we will have at least 10 games, but that is only a small part. There will be other events that serve the community – Final Fours, concerts and other events. It’s all those other things that get overlooked when people question why public money should be used on a private venture. Those are the things that are not talked about.”
Not surprisingly, Davis was asked by writers from Bay Area writers about the breakdown in Oakland and how there was nothing more that could be done to keep the team in its original home. Despite the Raiders’ frustrations with Oakland-Alameda leadership, Davis said he didn’t feel it would be an impediment to remain in Oakland through 2019,
“Not only do we want to play in Oakland, but we want to bring them a championship for the fans there,” he said. “The Raiders were born in Oakland. It’s part of our DNA. I love the Bay Area, its the most beautiful place to live, they have the greatest fans, and I wish things could have worked out.”
Playing “devil’s advocate,” Davis, who was relaxed, open and inquisitive during the 30-minute interview, asked what reporters hear from fans regarding the team’s move. Among the concerns relayed to him were areas on the roster such as cornerback, middle linebacker (including bringing back Navarro Bowman), defensive tacke and wide receiver.
“That’s exactly what I play devil’s advocate about with Reggie [GM McKenzie] and Jon,” Davis said.
Davis was also asked about concerns with the move to Las Vegas and whether visiting fans would comprise the largest share of the crowd. He dismissed it by saying fans from all over would come to town.
“Raider Nation is huge,> he said. “It really is a nation, and with the move, it is going to become more global. Las Vegas is a global market with a connection to the Asian market, and that could potentially be huge for the Raiders.”
Davis acknowledged parking (specifically, ingress, egress and parking for land-locked property) was the team’s biggest challenge, but would be resolved.
“My biggest job now is to keep the vision of the Raiders, and we have a great foundation,” he said. “It’s also my responsibility for staying on top of the stadium. Did I love the groundbreaking? Yeah, but I will love the ribbon cutting more.”
- Davis was quick to dispel concerns over General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Coach Jon Gruden coexisting in Oakland. “It’s a weight off my shoulder to not have to worry about the football side of the business,” he said. “I hired Jon to be the head coach, so Jon is the head coach for the next 10 years. Reggie runs the scouting department, manages the cap and gets the players. He has a great scouting department, including Tom Delaney and Dan Ventrelle. They have roles to play. At this point in time, the role Reggie plays now is a little different than the role he played with [former head coach] Jack [Del Rio], a little different than his role working with Dennis [Allen],”
- Maiocco asked Davis if the Raiders would renew their rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers this coming season. ““I don’t think there’s a problem,” he said. “We’ll see. . . that’s for others to make a decision on.”
Make sure to watch for more dispatches from Scott Winter during the NFL Owners Meetings in Orlando this week. Follow Winter on Twitter.