Joining the expansion NHL franchise, Las Vegas Golden Knights, the NFL owners voted nearly unanimously (31-1) to approve Raiders’ plan to relocate.
The Knights now know there’s no time to waste. The team was announced nine months ago, thousands of season tickets have been sold, the name and logo were unveiled in November and general manager George McPhee is already negotiating deals with his 30 counterparts in preparation for the expansion draft. All those things, however, were done largely with the understanding, or hope, that the Knights would be the only game in town, just like the Nashville Predators dreamed of having Music City to themselves but then learned the Houston Oilers were moving to Tennessee as well.
“This was always a possibility and that was something the (NHL’s Board of Governors) was aware of at the time they approved the franchise,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email to Puck Daddy. “We remain confident the Golden Knights will be successful, and that won’t change with or without an NFL franchise in town.”
The Raiders will stay in Oakland for the next two seasons before planning to move to Las Vegas in 2019. The Golden Knights will start play in the 2017-18 season.
Overall, the Golden Knights initially said they saw the eventual Raiders move as a positive.
“I think the first thing is obviously this has been discussed and been a part of kind of our dynamic for months now. It’s not like today has been a big surprise. I think everybody felt positively that this was going to come out the way it did and so from that end I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a big surprise. It’s just more confirmation of what we thought was already going to happen,” Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz said in a phone interview with Puck Daddy. “I think the big picture is it’s a new era for major professional sports in this community and it creates a visibility on the market that is a positive. You already have this great marketplace in terms of the entertainment and kind of gaming aspects but now you can throw major professional sports into that and I think again big picture, those are positive things for our franchise.”
But later in the day in an interview with KSHP 1400, owner Bill Foley gave a more combative about the Raiders’ arrival in an interview.
“If I had complete control, I would have rather the Raiders would not have been here. But I didn’t, so welcome. Bring em on,” he said.
Even if the Knights do everything right, it will still be impossible for them to ever be anything other than the No. 2 team in town. The NFL is just that big, that overwhelming in its presence. Buffalo has an NFL and an NHL team and no matter how incompetent the Bills are, they’re still No. 1. Of course, the Sabres have been pretty incompetent in recent years, too.
The Raiders, once they arrive, will suck up the lion’s share of media attention and corporate sponsorship in Vegas. So the task for the Knights will be to grow deep enough roots over the next two years that they won’t just be swept away when the NFL tsunami hits.
Bubolz also pointed out that the NFL and NHL are different models and believes there won’t be as much crossover as some may think.
“The main thing is we’re two totally different businesses,” Bubolz said. “We’re a new franchise and we’re starting fro scratch and building our fanbase around the Vegas Golden Knights. The Raiders are already a strong regional brand with a strong fanbase. Now they’re just going to play in Las Vegas vs. in Oakland.”
While there are a multitude of logistics to work out in the interim, the plan is for the Raiders to continue to play in Oakland for the next two seasons at the Oakland Coliseum until construction of a new stadium in Las Vegas – estimated to cost $1.9 billion USD – is completely in 2020 and funded by both the Raiders and a hotel tax passed by the Nevada Legislature in October.
The move to Las Vegas will mark the team’s second departure from Oakland, following the Raiders’ move to Los Angeles 35 years ago.
Guess all we can do now is wait and see what happens.