SAN DIEGO – Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis stood at the 35-yard-line at Qualcomm Stadium Sunday and did a thorough scan of his surroundings.
Davis was in San Diego, where his Raiders were about to play their AFC west arch-rival Chargers. But considering the ocean of silver of black that covered every section of the stadium., he might as well been in Oakland.
Or, dare we say, Los Angeles, where he and Chargers owner Dean Spanos hope to relocate their teams next season.
“The Raiders Nation is strong today,” Davis said, beaming.
It was an odd scene – and afternoon – to be sure. Davis and Spanos have developed what they insist is an unbreakable bond in their quest to cure their long-time local stadium fights by building a joint stadium in Carson.
But Sunday it was time to set all that aside. There was a game to play. An important one.
“Dean and I have a great relationship. But I want to kick his ass today. Don’t ever think that’s anything but the case,” Davis said. “This is a vicious rivalry. And that hasn’t changed.”
But both understand there is a bigger game at stake, and that is securing their long-range futures by locking down new homes.
The Raiders and Chargers play in the two oldest stadiums in the NFL, and both sit near the bottom in league revenue.
Both owners insist it’s an unsustainable situation.
“Trying to get a stadium, it’s the most important thing as far as the future of our organizations,” Davis said. “Literally the most important thing. That is what this is all about.”
Neither Davis or Spanos believes their local markets offer hope anymore, at least as it relates to the National Football League’s current time line to return to Los Angeles in time for the 2016 season.
In fact, Davis said there haven’t been any official talks with Oakland leaders in more than two months.
“We’ve gotten to the point now, unless you have something to offer, something different, there is no reason to talk,” Davis said.
For both, it’s full steam ahead to Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the NFL is pondering two L.A. stadium bids – the Chargers and Raiders Carson project and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood proposal. A vote by the league’s 32 owners is expected in January.
Per relocation guidelines, it will take 24 yes votes to approve any move.
Davis and Spanos are convinced they meet all of the league’s relocation guidelines, as both have spent more than a decade in unsuccessful fights to get new local stadiums.
And both insist the tight partnership they’ve forged will create a long-term marriage that helps facilitate a successful return to Los Angeles.
Now they just need enough owners to side with them.
“If it’s objective, there is no doubt in my mind we’ve hit every relocation criteria,” Davis insisted.
And if anyone doubts whether the Silver and Black will find sufficient fan support in L.A. all they needed to do was look at the manner in which Raiders Nation took over Qualcomm Stadium.
This was a home game for the Raiders, period, as legions of their L.A. and Southern California based fans made the trip to San Diego to shower the Silver and Black with support as they hammered the Chargers.
And it offered a precursor to what might happen if the Raiders and Chargers end up in Carson.
Davis is convinced the Raiders will nail Los Angeles.
“There is no question in our mind that we’re one of the teams that could make it go in L.A.,” Davis said, confidently. “There is a Raiders Nation there. We’d kick ass.”
Getting there is the question, and for the Raiders that means overcoming a few lingering negative scouting reports. Like the one created by their last stay in Los Angeles when an element of Raiders fans turned part the L.A. Coliseum into fight zones on game days. The thinking being, it will be more of the same if the Raiders return.
It’s a sensitive subject for Davis, who fully acknowledges some of the mistakes the Raiders made three decades ago. But it’s one he is absolutely willing to meet head on.
And it’s process that’s already started in Oakland, where the Raiders have implemented and enforced a strict code of conduct for ticket holders and created a better, safer fan-day experience.
“It’s absolutely something we’ve addressed over the last few years,” Davis said. “We’ve been doing a phenomenal job in that regard over the last few years. Our stadium is one of the safest, I believe, and our fans some of the most knowledgeable about the game. This who thing has been unfair to them.”
Davis promised it will continue in Los Angeles.
“We understand that, should we come down to Los Angeles, that there will be an image re-engineering because of how it was when we left L.A.,” Davis said. “We understand how it was left off, what was going on in the 80’s and early 90’s in society in general. It was a confluence of things that happened. I’m not blind to any of it. And we will do everything we can to make it right.”
Another concern relative to the Raiders is their financial wherewithal to succeed in L.A., with some owners thinking the deep pockets of a richer owner might be needed.
Davis insists the financial aspect of building the Carson stadium – and sustaining in L.A. – is rock solid behind the financing of Goldman Sachs.
“We’re fine as far as financing,” he said.
But he does acknowledge the Raiders might need help taping into the all the revenue streams available in L.A., which means building relationships in the entertainment, development and business world in L.A.
To help facilitate that, Davis is talking to a potential investor about coming aboard. He won’t reveal who – yet – or even guarantee a deal will come together.
But he does concede the Raiders are consider bringing in help.
“People who understand the market, and things of that nature,” Davis said. “We understand that different markets take different groups of people to help make it successful.
“We have a great core of people who are doing a phenomenal job of doing that up north, and they’ll still be doing a phenomenal job in Southern California,” Davis continued. “But there are different aspects you have to go after between one market and the other. There’s different industries, different companies, different relationships we need to encourage and develop.”
But the vote is still three months away. It was time to play a game, against an old and present rival but potentially long-range partner.
“Today we want to kick the Chargers ass,” Davis. “But their is a business relationship with them and that doesn’t change.”