The Prodigal Son Returns: The Raiders are Coming Home
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Eight years after fleeing town, Al Davis and his Raiders got a $602 million welcome home.
The football team’s return from Los Angeles went from rumor to reality Monday in a dizzying 12-hour period. Davis gave his support to the 15-year, multimillion-dollar deal minutes before a noon deadline, and the City Council and Alameda County supervisors followed suit at six minutes to midnight to make it final.
All that’s left is for papers to be signed and for the Raiders to play out the two seasons left on their Los Angeles Coliseum lease - unless Davis, the team’s managing general partner, can work out a settlement to bring them north sooner.
″He’s the prodigal son coming back,″ said Tom Keating, a former Raiders player who lives in the Oakland area. ″When they left, I lost my season tickets like everyone else. I want them back.″
Davis left city officials angry and fans brokenhearted by moving the team in 1982. The city spent more than $7 million in an unsuccessful legal fight to get the Raiders back.
NFL approval of the Raiders’ next move, while expected, won’t make or break the deal. Davis proved that when he moved the Raiders against the will of his fellow team owners after the 1981 season. Raiders fans who sat through Monday night’s often raucous five-hour session knew that when they swarmed jubilantly into the street after the vote.
″It’s ecstasy,″ bellowed Cliff Goldberg of San Leandro, a 29-year-old beverage distributor who helps publish a Raiders fans newsletter. ″I can’t express it.
″People laughed in our faces when we said three years ago that the Raiders should come back. It’s like the fans just won the Super Bowl.″
Supervisors voted 3-1, with one abstention, to make the $602 million offer official, and the City Council approved it by a 5-3 vote during an emotional joint hearing that one opponent likened to a pep rally.
The financial package includes $53.5 million for expansion and improvements of the Oakland Coliseum and a guarantee of $29 million a year in ticket sales over the 15 years of the lease.
″There is tremendous risk in this proposal,″ said Councilman Wilson Riles Jr., a leading critic of the plan. ″I think any number of businesses across the country could provide more for the city and county if they were guaranteed $600 million.″
Before leaving for Los Angeles, the Raiders provided hundreds of thrills for their fans. The team in Silver and Black won nine division titles and Super Bowl championships in 1977 and 1981, strung together an NFL-record 16 consecutive winning seasons and had 12 consecutive sellout seasons at home.
Davis made the decision to move to Los Angeles after a dispute over his demands for improvements in the Oakland Coliseum. The Los Angeles Coliseum offered the potential of much higher income, with more tickets to sell, but the Raiders were never able to fill the seats on a regular basis.
The Raiders won their third Super Bowl title following the 1983 season but have failed to make the playoffs the last four years and have played before crowds of under 40,000 at home.