The Oakland Raiders are looking to reduce their seating capacity in hopes that in turn they will sell out more games and prevent TV blackouts from happening. Rather than taking action to draw more fans to the stadium, the Raiders have reportedly been planning on creating the league’s smallest stadium.
Already reducing the capacity of their current home, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, to 53,000 for this season to prevent blackouts, which is by far the smallest capacity in football.
Their lease with Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum only runs through 2013, so after this season the Raiders would be free to relocate wherever they see fit. A report that the team is looking into building a new, smaller 50,000 seat stadium shows that Oakland could very well remain home for the team.
Funding a stadium that would carry an estimated $800 million cost would be no easy task for the team. David Stone of AECOM, the firm advising the Oakland Raiders on their current stadium shrinking, informed board members at a meeting of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum governing body that “the Raiders have proposed contributing about $300 million toward the project. If the NFL agreed to provide $200 million from its stadium loan program, that would leave an estimated $300 million shortfall.”
Mike Taylor, the Oakland Raiders director of public affairs said in a statement that “both sides are conducting studies to determine the demand and financial viability of the project.” City officials have been reluctant to not subsidize a new stadium after the tens of millions of dollars the city lost to bring the Raiders back from Los Angeles.
City Councilman Larry Reid showed that the city may well be coming around to the idea of granting public funds to the creation of a new stadium. He said that “my primary concern is this is a city that always had three major league teams and that now there is the possibility that we will have none.”
Oakland will be competing once again with Los Angeles for the Raiders. Los Angeles has already proposed a 75,000 capacity stadium, 150 percent the seating of Oakland’s proposal. It will be important for Oakland to fight to keep the Raiders as Reid pointed out. The Golden State Warriors are already planning to leave for San Francisco, while the Athletics have been attempting to move to San Jose for some time.
The plan to build the smallest stadium in the league in order to avoid blackouts seems a little strange. A team-commissioned study found that there was a demand for a 56,000 seat stadium with 6,000 club seats, yet the number the team is planning is 50,000 seats.
Currently with a 63,000 capacity before the 10,000 seat reduction before opening week, the Raiders had just one game blacked out last year at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The NFL implemented a new policy in 2012 that says games with 85 percent of tickets sold can report the game as sold out and avoid a blackout. The visiting team then gets to split revenue on the remaining tickets sold with the home team.
Oakland and the Raiders are planning the league’s smallest stadium in hopes of preventing blackouts and keeping the team from moving to Los Angeles. Although reluctant to give public money, the city will have to do so if it wants to continue to host a professional sports team.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express