In a landslide, 31 of 32 NFL owners voted Monday to move the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas to the praises of most outside the Bay Area.
Bill Foley, the NHL's newest owner whose expansion Golden Knights soon will share the Sin City's suddenly burgeoning professional sports scene, is looking at the NFL's relocation through a more critical lens, specifically as it involves the $750 million in public money Las Vegas lawmakers secured to help finance the Raiders' new $1.9 billion stadium.
“I felt like there were a lot better ways to spend $750 million than bringing the Raiders to Las Vegas,” Foley said Monday on Vegas Hockey Hotline. “We could spend it on police, firefighters and teachers and have them all be the best in the country. But I guess we’re going to spend it on the Raiders.”
Foley made history in June when the NHL approved his bid to bring a franchise to Las Vegas, which to date had not permanently hosted a pro sports team.
The Golden Knights will begin play this fall in the privately-financed T-Mobile Arena, a $375 million facility fitted to host shows and concerts in addition to hockey year-round near the future site that will host the Raiders beginning in 2020. Though maybe not the driving force, the NFL's interest in Las Vegas was sweetened by the city's multimillion dollar contribution to build the stadium, taken from tourists in the form of hotel room taxes.
Foley, a billionaire businessman, said he was never approached by the Raiders or the NFL to join negotiations for relocation.
He welcomed and congratulated Raiders owner Mark Davis on the bid's approval, adding, “It truly is an exciting time to be from Las Vegas. There is only a select group of cities in North America that are home to both an NHL and an NFL franchise and Vegas is now one of them.”
But Foley also expressed a sense of skepticism for the future success of the NFL in Vegas, a market that will rank among the smallest in a league which generally favors locales that can produce major television revenue. A few of the NFL's more small-scale operations, like in Buffalo or Green Bay, are propped up by diehard fan bases.
Foley isn't sure that will necessarily be the case for Las Vegans.
"I honestly believe when the Raiders play here more than half the stadium will be rooting for the other team," he said, taking credit for sparking the NFL's interest with a season ticket drive that sold nearly 13,000 seats before the NHL officially awarded the city a franchise.
"There's no doubt in my mind," he said, "that being granted the first franchise, I believe we laid the groundwork for the Raiders. It's reality.
"If I had complete control, I would have rather the Raiders would not have been here. But I didn't, so welcome. Bring 'em on."