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An Exodus from Oakland

Oakland has suffered from a less-than-stellar reputation over almost the entirety of its existence. But they love their Raiders. And now the people of Oakland will be losing their beloved Raiders for the second and final time as the team prepares to move to Las Vegas after the construction of a palatial facility that will address a global audience. The original plan was that the team would play one more season after this one in the dilapidated, yet also beloved, Oakland Coliseum; and thus fans would be able to enjoy one more year watching NFL football on the East Bay. But now it looks like the team will be heading out early.

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The city of Oakland has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit in a bid to recover what it considers to be damages caused by the Raiders' move to Sin City. The suit names the team, the league, and all 31 other franchises, seeking lost future revenues without attempting to block the team from moving. The city says it owes $80 million in debt from the taxpayer-funded "refurbishment" of what is largely considered to be the worst facility in all of major professional sports. When the Raiders leave, taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.

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It does look like the city, which has made an excellent point, will probably be able to get a settlement since $80 million isn't really very much money when you consider the financial strength of the NFL and its ownership group. Oakland is getting the short end of the stick, but it is also a reminder that a city must maintain good-quality facilities if it expects to keep its teams. This is especially true if you are Oakland. Or at least, the old Oakland. I personally have almost been killed in Oakland. Twice.

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The reality of losing a team plays out time and time again for cities as struggling franchises seek opportunity in nicer digs. Note to city leaders: If you don't build it or at least seriously remodel it, they will leave; and all of the economic benefits that go with it will also depart. It's easy to feel sorry for Oakland. Sort of. Their beloved Warriors of the NBA are moving across the bay to San Francisco from the broken down arena that sits adjacent to the Coliseum and to a beautiful new facility. And the A's of Major League Baseball, a team that still plays in the Coliseum (a stadium made for football) cannot be very far behind capping this "in toto" exodus from Oakland.

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What remains so interesting about all of this is that Oakland, due to its proximity to the expensive real estate between San Francisco and the Silicon Valley to the south, is growing rapidly and has become a fairly high income place. The weather is much nicer than San Francisco, and with the 49'ers now playing at Levi's Stadium down in San Jose, it's hard to believe that the market up there isn't large enough to support an NFL franchise. You see, it's all about having a great facility. After all, we can watch this stuff on TV.

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Indeed, the vast majority of arenas and stadiums that have been built over the past decade or so have been funded by private sources, often involving team ownership. Taxpayers have been increasingly unwilling to foot the bill and in many cases, such as the Chargers leaving San Diego and the Rams leaving St. Louis, teams will leave for areas that offer more financial opportunity. The Raiders are leaving, but where will they play next year? In light of the lawsuit, the Coliseum looks highly unlikely. Will it be at UNLV's stadium in Vegas? Is it possible that the team could play its 8 home games at the college stadium in a nearby place like cult-favorite Reno? Why not? The Chargers are playing in a small soccer stadium until Rams' owner Stan Kroenke builds the Los Angeles facility they will both share. The league hasn't seen anything like this before. Let's see what happens.


Discussion: Do you think that the city should win its suit? Explain your answer. Where do you think the Raiders should play next year? Justify your suggestion with marketing-related reasoning.