The Oakland Raiders are at it again. The spirit of Al Davis is alive and well, in the form of Mark Davis, son of the late Raiders owner. Mark Davis is chatted with San Antonio officials about the feasability of moving the Raiders to Alamo City.
Back in the day, Al Davis shopped his franchise constantly and ended up taking the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982. In 1995, Davis took the Raiders back to Oakland.
The Raider lease expires in 2015, and the O.co Coliseum (originally Oakland Alameda County Coliseum), which is almost 50 years old, is the last of the dual-franchise stadiums. The Athletics play baseball there, and the Raiders play football there. And it’s not an adequate place for either.
So if the Raiders decided to move, is San Antonio a viable option? Well, it seems absurd that the NFL does not have a franchise in Greater Los Angeles. LA hasn’t had an NFL team since the Rams went to St. Louis the same year the Raiders went back to Oakland. But LA doesn’t have a stadium plan, and neither the LA Coliseum nor the Rose Bowl has proven adequate for NFL needs.
If Los Angeles doesn’t work, what’s the next best option for the NFL? The NFL needs as big a market as possible, though frankly, the NFL works anywhere. The NFL works in Fargo. The NFL also needs a state-of-the-art stadium, or the promise of one, with a good alternative while the contemporary stadium gets built.
San Antonio has the Alamodome, which would work as a stopgap. I have no idea if San Antone is interesting in the new-stadium business. I also have no idea what cities are poised to build a stadium if a franchise would hang out a shingle. But I can give you a list of what American cities are without the NFL or any major league franchise:
1. Portland, 2.3 million population: the largest metro area without the NFL, other than Greater LA. Of course, Portland doesn’t have even a temporary stadium to house a team. Has only the NBA TrailBlazers,
2. San Antonio, 2.3 million population: The Alamodome would suffice as a stopgap stadium. Has only the NBA Spurs.
3. Orlando, 2.3 million population: We’re on a run of NBA cities here. Orlando has the Magic. The old Citrus Bowl stadium could function temporarily for a team.
4. Sacramento, 2.2 million: More NBA. The Kings. SacTown has no stadium.
5. Las Vegas, 2.0 million: The largest metro in the nation without a major league franchise. Vegas, because of the gambling, isn’t likely to get one.
6. Columbus, Ohio: 2.0 million: Has hockey’s Bluejackets and has a football field with a few seats, the Buckeyes’ Ohio Stadium, but it’s not likely that Ohio State would be in the mood to share.
7. Austin, 1.9 million: No major league franchise; Texas’ DKR-Memorial Stadium has 100,000 seats. Sort of an intriguing place. Dallas, Houston and San Antonio are major-league Texas markets. What if Austin wanted to get in the game? There’s some money in Austin. Of course, a place that embraces a “Keep Austin Weird” slogan might not want the NFL. That would be weird.
8. Tidewater, 1.7 million: Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Newport News is thriving place. There’s no stadium, but I think this is virgin territory. Some franchise in some sport could come in here and do something special.
9. Providence, 1.6 million: If you want to count this with Boston and New England, I couldn’t argue. But the experts don’t. No stadium, though.
10. Milwaukee, 1.6 million: Not really a contender, since the Packers are in Green Bay, two hours north, and the whole danged state is Packer-crazy. But I really listed Milwaukee because of the population. Can you believe that Greater Milwaukee isn’t much bigger than Greater OKC?
11. Memphis, 1.3 million: The NBA Grizzlies are here, and so is Liberty Bowl Stadium.
12. Oklahoma City, 1.3 million: The Thunder, I’m sure you’ve heard of, and I guess a team could play in Norman for awhile. But who would build a stadium?
13. Louisville, 1.3 million: No major-league franchise. A team could spend a year or two in Louisville’s new stadium.
14. Richmond, 1.2 million: I know less about Richmond than any city on this list. I assume Richmond is not a candidate.
15. Hartford, 1.2 million: No franchise since the NHL Whalers left. UConn’s stadium is decent.
From there, you start getting into cities like Birmingham and Rochester (N.Y.) and Grand Rapids and Tucson. The NFL would go great in all those spots, so long as you have a billion-dollar stadium. So the next NFL city is likely to be Los Angeles, and if not, San Antonio certainly ranks high on the list of possibilities.