Bill Foley’s tenure as the only owner of a “Big Four” professional sports franchise in Las Vegas came to an end this week, and he has some things to say about it.
On Monday, NFL owners approved the relocation of the Raiders from Oakland to Southern Nevada by a 31-1 vote. They’ll remain in Oakland for at least the next two seasons. A new 65,000 seat, $1.9 billion stadium in Las Vegas is expected to be ready for use in 2020. In 21 months, Vegas has gone from a city with zero NFL, NHL, MLB or NBA options to a city with a pair of teams. It appears some competition is brewing.
Foley Welcomes Raiders to Vegas
There’s been a mixed reaction to the move, as $750 million of that $1.9 billion will come from public funding that locals did not get a vote on. Some are suggesting that the stadium deal is among the worst the sports world has ever seen.Following the historic news, Foley made a predictably benign statement, welcoming the Raiders to Sin City.
“On behalf of the entire Vegas Golden Knights family, I would like to welcome and congratulate Mark Davis and the Oakland Raiders on their relocation to the great city of Las Vegas. 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. This alone should be a great source of pride for our community and our fans. Las Vegas has always been one of the most popular destination cities in the world and it is now emerging as a premier location for major league professional sports.”
It didn’t take long for that message to be forgotten.
Foley Didn’t Want Raiders
Later in the day, the gloves came off. Don’t be mistaken, the Las Vegas Raiders represent competition to Foley, and he wants his team to be the city’s top sports attraction.
Appearing on the Vegas Hockey Hotline with Brian Blessing, the Golden Knights’ owner attacked the $750 million in public funding suggesting that money could be put to better use for the residents of the Silver State.
“I felt like there were a lot better ways to spend $750 million than bringing the Raiders to Las Vegas. 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.”
That’s a very strong message from Foley, but he went out of his way to be even more succinct.
“If I had complete control of the situation, I would not have opted to have the Raiders come here. But I didn’t, so I welcome them.”
Foley needed no public funding to make the NHL in Las Vegas a reality. T-Mobile Arena, home of the Golden Knights, opened in last year. It was constructed at a cost of $375 million.
Team president Kerry Bubolz credits Foley’s efforts to secure season ticket deposits over the last two-plus years, as well as all of the positive media attention the Vegas franchise has received, for encouraging the Raiders to pursue relocation.
“I don’t want to speak for the NFL, but they had to be watching during the ticket drive and all the positive press that the city received during that. I give Mr. Foley a lot of credit, because he put in a lot of hard work for those couple years to get to a place where the NHL said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
— theScore (@theScore) March 28, 2017
It will be an interesting journey for these two franchises over the course of the next few years. By the time the Raiders move into their new Vegas pad, the Golden Knights will have three seasons in the books. Foley has said before that he expects his team to be in the playoffs by year three.
There might be two teams in Las Vegas, but Foley wants to make perfectly clear who was here first.
“We’re different. We are really Las Vegas’ originally team. We are the first major league sports team in Las Vegas.”
Las Vegas local covering Golden Knights hockey since 2016.
Ball State University ’05
Credentialed NBA writer covering the Phoenix Suns,
Credentialed NCAA football writer covering the UNLV Rebels