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October 21, 2017

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The Las Vegas Raiders: NFL owners OK move from Oakland

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Steve Marcus

Raiders fans Robert Reyes, left, of Las Vegas, and Jeff Whitaker of Ithaca, Mich. chat by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign as NFL owners in Phoenix vote to approve a Raiders move to Las Vegas Monday, March 27, 2017.

Updated Monday, March 27, 2017 | 2:49 p.m.

Raiders Fans Celebrate By Welcome to Las Vegas Sign

Laborers Union members, Local 872, cheer for a television camera by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign after NFL owners in Phoenix voted to approve a Raiders move to Las Vegas Monday, March 27, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Raiders proposed Las Vegas stadium

A look at the proposed $1.9 billion domed football stadium for the Oakland Raiders and UNLV football in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

PHOENIX — The Las Vegas Raiders are official.

The Oakland Raiders will move to Las Vegas and begin playing at a planned $1.9 billion stadium starting with the 2020 season. National Football League owners conditionally approved the team’s application to relocate to Southern Nevada at their annual meeting this morning at the Arizona Biltmore resort.

The vote was 31-1. Miami was the only no vote.

“Our football dreams have come true,” Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said in a statement. “On behalf of all the citizens of Clark County, it is my pleasure to say to the Raiders, Raider Nation and the entire NFL — welcome to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.”

Fans in Las Vegas celebrated the news on the Strip and at local sports bars.

John Baietti, a Raiders fan since the beginning in 1960, described the news as “Christmas times a thousand.”

Sue Woods of Las Vegas joined other fans celebrating beneath the famous Las Vegas welcome sign. They cheered and waved signs as passing motorists honked their horns.

“It’s about time we had something like this here,” Woods said. “Just more proof that Las Vegas is not just about casinos and gambling.”

Team owner Mark Davis thanked Gov. Brian Sandoval and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, an early backer of building a stadium in Las Vegas. "It probably wouldn't have happened without him," Davis said of Adelson.

"I have mixed feelings obviously. I love Oakland and I love the fans in Oakland. I understand that there will be some angry fans and disappointed fans. I want them to understand that it wasn’t the coaches or the players that made this decision. I made the decision," Davis said. "In the coming days, I will try to explain to them what led me to this decision."

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr also greeted the news with mixed emotions.

"I feel the pain of our fans in Oakland. I also see the joy on the faces of our new fans in Las Vegas," he said. "While I am from California and would have loved playing in Oakland my whole career, I understand the business side of the NFL."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Davis and league officials looked for ways to keep the Raiders in Oakland but, ultimately, could not come up with a viable solution.

In a last-ditch attempt to keep the team, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged owners to hold off on today's vote to give the city a chance to negotiate a stadium deal at the Coliseum site. But it was too little too late.

"We needed to provide certainty and stability for the Raiders and the rest of the league," Goodell said. "I know the ownership went the extra mile to try to find a solution in Oakland. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that done, and we are all disappointed. We are particularly disappointed for the fans in Oakland."

Schaaf said she was disappointed "the Raiders and the NFL chose Las Vegas over Oakland when we had a fully-financed, shovel-ready stadium project that would have kept the Raiders in Oakland where they were born and raised."

Las Vegas officials began recruiting the Raiders more than a year ago, after the team’s lengthy talks to build a new stadium in Oakland fizzled.

Local efforts picked up when Adelson pushed a plan last year to help develop a 65,000-seat domed stadium. That plan gained traction during months of meetings with the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, which recommended last fall building a new stadium backed by a significant public investment.

Adelson’s representatives made clear that he would only participate in the project if the state provided $750 million in public funding to match his $650 million investment.

With that ultimatum hovering, the governor convened a special session of the Legislature in October, and lawmakers approved the $750 million via an increased hotel room tax. It would be the largest public contribution toward a stadium in the nation.

The public funding gave Las Vegas a clear advantage in the race for the Raiders, an upper hand strong enough to withstand Adelson’s withdrawal from the deal in January. Oakland replaced Adelson’s contribution with a $650 million loan from Bank of America within two weeks. A league finance committee blessed the team’s financial plan earlier this month.

The Raiders are in negotiations on a 30-year stadium lease with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority. In addition to the lease, the team also must come to an agreement to develop the stadium, assuming the Raiders ultimately act as the developer.

The Raiders and UNLV will need to initiate formal discussions on a deal to share the stadium as well, a necessity spelled out in the legislation authorizing the room tax increase.

"Today’s decision means even more to us here as it will elevate the UNLV football program to never-before-seen heights, create thousands of construction and permanent jobs, and draw tens-of-thousands of new tourists to Southern Nevada," Sisolak said.

UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez said today's news was a "huge development" for the Rebels. "Sharing a state-of-the-art stadium with the Raiders is another thing that will allow us to recruit at a high level," he said.

Sandoval called it "a monumental day for Las Vegas and the entire State of Nevada." He said the Stadium Authority would finalize the details, "but the terms of the deal are established into law and no additional taxpayer funds will be expended."

The Raiders become the second major professional sports franchise awarded to Las Vegas.

The National Hockey League granted an expansion team to the city in 2016, and the Vegas Golden Knights will play their inaugural game at T-Mobile Arena in October.

The move is the third in franchise history for the Raiders.

Late owner Al Davis moved the team from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982 before returning to the Bay Area in 1995.

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