Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2018

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Why Howie Long expects Raiders to thrive in Las Vegas

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Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP

Howie Long appears on a Fox Sports panel during the 2017 Winter Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif.

Howie Long has been through the relocation process before with the Raiders.

The Raiders great and NFL Hall of Famer was drafted by the franchise in 1981, one year before they left Oakland for Los Angeles. He played with the team until 1993 — two years before they returned to Oakland.

Through all the moves, one thing has remained constant: The diehard support of Raider fans, he said. That’s part of the reason why Long sees the move to Las Vegas in 2020 as a “game changer.”

“Economically, it was impossible for the Raiders to survive financially in Oakland,” Long said. “The city and the county weren’t willing to support the team — it has to be a partnership. The move to Vegas to me, it’s a game changer.”

Long, who was in Las Vegas last week to speak at the Car Wash Show, said the Raiders struggle to sell luxury boxes at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Each team retains money derived from suite and club seating sales at their respective stadiums.

But selling suites at the under-construction Las Vegas stadium has not been an issue, Long said.

“How many casinos are there here (in Las Vegas),” Long asked. “There’s big money, big money here. They (Raiders) are selling luxury boxes here for between $450,000 and $650,000 a year, with a 10-year commitment. And they’ll sell them all.”

Many believe the Raiders’ fan base in California will follow them to Nevada. Of the 50,000 personal seat license deposits, 29 percent came from California residents.

“It’s a unique fan base, from both Northern and Southern California, where they’ve won Super Bowls in both,” he said. “That fan base will get in their car and drive four hours from L.A., or I think it’s Allegiant Air, where you can get a flight from the Bay Area to Las Vegas for like $95. I think they’re trying to make that accessible for a lot of the fans.”

Long said the city’s support of the NHL Golden Knights in their initial season shows that Las Vegas is a sustainable major league sports market. He likened the area to Phoenix, which draws from all areas of the valley to support its teams.

“Phoenix is kind of spread out. I think Vegas is kind of like that,” he said. “You have Henderson and Summerlin and the support and success that the hockey team has had, I think when the NFL comes here the support is going to be very passionate.”

With Raider games only a small portion of what the 65,000-seat, $1.8 billion stadium will bring, Long sees a bevy a events being hosted here.

“Think about the combine here, think about the draft here, Super Bowls here,” Long said. “Think about all the events they can have at this stadium. It’s remarkable.”