Raiders' lease for Coliseum OK'd by NFL owners

PHOENIX -- It is finally official: The Raiders will play at the Oakland Coliseum this season and have the option to return in 2020 should the team's $1.8 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium in Las Vegas not be ready.

NFL owners voted unanimously to approve the team's lease at the league's meetings here on Monday.

"It was unanimous. There was almost an abstention," cracked Raiders owner Mark Davis.

Davis was assuredly referencing his team's history, under his late father, Al, of abstaining during league votes. Davis would not call winning the right to return to Oakland a victory, or a defeat.

"I'm not saying it's a victory," Davis said. "It's not a victory at all. It's a result of a many number of things. That's what it is. But it's going to be an exciting season. We're happy about it. There's no ill will or anything like that. [Oakland] made a tough, tough deal but they're allowed to. That's what negotiations are."

"Happy to hear that," added Raiders coach Jon Gruden on Tuesday from the coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings. "To me, I don't know what was so hard about (returning) - we're the Oakland Raiders."

Winning the owners' vote was the final step in a lengthy process to ensure the team remained in Oakland, where it called the Coliseum home from 1966 through 1981 and from 1995 to present. The Oakland City Council, Alameda Board of Supervisors and Coliseum Authority all had to approve the lease first.

As such, the Raiders will pay $7.5 million in rent for the Coliseum and the Alameda practice facility this season. That price will go up to $10.5 million should the team need to stay in 2020. The team will also not get any money from potential naming rights while paying "an owed" $750,000 in parking fees, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

The league's schedule-makers can now formally put together its 2019 schedule knowing Oakland will house the Raiders. Still, the team is losing one home game, as it plays host to the Chicago Bears in London, and Oakland is also contemplating playing a home preseason game in Regina, Canada.

The Raiders initially withdrew their proposed $7.5 million lease in December after the city of Oakland filed a federal lawsuit against the team and the NFL over the franchise's move to Las Vegas.

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said Monday the team's somewhat unsteady situation for a home in 2019 was not a factor for prospective free agents.

"I think most people thought, from a common-sense perspective, it was going to be a bus ride and not a plane ride to a home game," Mayock said. "So I think that was really the distinction."

Indeed, the Raiders contemplated playing across the Bay at the San Francisco Giants' waterfront Oracle Park baseball stadium. But the San Francisco 49ers, who play some 45 miles south in Santa Clara and hold territorial rights to San Francisco, were against the move. The Raiders could have also played in the Niners' Levi's Stadium, but Davis abhorred the idea.

In October, Davis told ESPN he wanted to play one last season in Oakland, even with the threat of a lawsuit.

"Emotionally, I would say, 'Why would I give them $3 [million], $4 [million], $5 million in rent that they're going to turn around and use to sue me?'" Davis said at the time. "But, at the same time, if they'll have us, I can't turn on the fans. I can't do it. And this is terrible negotiating I'm doing now. I'm going to get killed. But that's just the way I am. But, if in fact it does get ugly and can't be bridged, we do have options."

Monday, Davis said the lingering lawsuit had "nothing to do with negotiations" regarding the lease.

"I told you a long time ago, I really want to play in Oakland," Davis said. "I said if there was a lawsuit, then I'd have to think about it. And unless something really ugly happened, that's what I'd want the end result to be. And so that's where we are. It's cool. It's great."

The Raiders, meanwhile, fully expect the Las Vegas stadium -- to which a hotel tax is contributing $750 million -- to open on time. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, though, that substantial completion of the venue has been pushed back by less than a week, to Aug. 4, 2020, due to delays in the delivery of steel components.

Besides any potential to-be-scheduled Raiders home preseason games, the UNLV football team is scheduled to play host to Cal on Aug. 29, 2020, at the new stadium.

"It will be the last stadium lease I'll have to do in my life because we have a 30-year lease down in Nevada, down in Las Vegas. I believe that [Raiders president] Marc Badain and [Raiders general counsel] Dan Ventrelle did a hell of a job [negotiating], based on the fact that they had both hands tied behind their backs to do it. It shows how hard it is to get something done, to get a lease done anywhere.

"But we did get it done and we're just ready to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the AFL and give the Raiders fans and everybody else a great celebration."