Las Vegas Raiders Beat Writer: ‘I Could Definitely See Utah Becoming A Significant Raider State’
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – At least one NFL writer believes that the state of Utah could soon become “a significant Raider state” with the Las Vegas Raiders move to Southern Nevada.
After playing in Oakland, California since 1995, the Raiders organization relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada in early 2020.
Now, the Raiders’ new home, Allegiant Stadium, is only a six-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah.
I recently spoke on the phone with Vincent Bonsignore, who covers the Raiders for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Bonsignore believes that the NFL team’s close proximity to Utah could lead the state to “becoming a significant Raider state and I think that the Raiders would love to see that happen.”
Las Vegas, meet the Raiders
The team that was formerly known as the Oakland Raiders played more than two decades at the Oakland Coliseum during their second stint in the Bay Area.
On January 19, 2017, the franchise officially filed relocation paperwork with the league. NFL owners approved the Raiders’ request with a 31-1 vote on March 27, 2017.
In March 2020, the Raiders officially became the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I think it’s been tremendous,” Bonsignore said of Las Vegas’ reception of the Raiders.
The move was the third in franchise history.
After the organization was founded in Oakland in 1960, the Raiders moved to Los Angeles in 1982. After the 1994 season, they relocated back to Oakland.
Before the paperwork for Las Vegas was filed, the Raiders tried to relocate to back Los Angeles. However, in addition to the Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams also placed bids for L.A.
In the end, the Raiders ended up in third place and turned their attention to finding another city to call home.
“When you look back at it now. When you look at where they are now. They probably came out better than anyone in that in that whole pursuit of Los Angeles,” Bonsignore said. “The Rams obviously have a great situation. They have a great stadium. It’s their stadium but they have to share it with the Chargers and there’s complications to that. It’s their stadium, Sofi Stadium, but it’s not quite there stadium because somebody else is sharing it with them and the Raiders would have always been in that situation. You look at Las Vegas now you drive by that stadium, Allegiant Stadium, it’s Raiders centric. There’s no question who’s stadium that is. It’s a beautiful stadium that has their colors. You can see it from everywhere in Las Vegas.”
Why did the Raiders move?
So why did the Raiders move in the first place? They’d already moved away from Oakland once and decided to return. Why leave again?
Bonsignore told me about Raiders owner Mark Davis and his motivation for relocating his team.
“The times that I’ve talked to Mark Davis (Raiders owner) throughout this whole process, I always found him to be truly honest and earnest about what he was seeking out of all this. Out of a new stadium. Honestly, all he really wanted was to be able to be on a financial plane that put him alongside his 31 other colleagues in the NFL And you have to remember that,” Bonsignore said. “Tap into these brand new revenue streams at these stadiums help create when you’re talking about suites and restaurants and naming rights and all of these things that put you in a better place financially.”
As of September 2019, the Raiders were worth $2.9 billion, according to Forbes.com. The franchise’s 2019 valuation ranked No. 12 in the NFL and was a 20 percent increase from 2018.
“I told him ‘Hey man if you move to Los Angeles you know the value of your franchise skyrockets,'” Bonsignore continued. “He’s like ‘I don’t care about any of that.’ He goes, ‘You can call me a fool. You can say you don’t believe me. Naive. Whatever you wanna call me, it’s fine. But I don’t care about the value of the team. This isn’t what I’m doing this for. I wanna be able to compete with everyone else in the league. Financially be able to but my team in the best position to win a Super Bowl and to give Raider nation, my fans, a championship-caliber team. That’s all I care about.'”
Raiders view Utah as a free agent fan base
Currently, no NFL team calls the state of Utah home. Driving around or seeing the gear that people wear, the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be some of the most popular teams along the Wasatch Front.
I asked Bonsignore if the Raiders looked at Utah as an opportunity to expand their fan base and footprint without another franchise “claiming the state.”
“No question about it,” Bonsignore responded.
In fact, a tie to the state of Utah has already taken place with the Las Vegas-based franchise. The naming rights for the Raiders’ practice facility were purchased by Intermountain Healthcare, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City.
Bonsignore continued by saying that the NFL is a regional sport and the six-hour distance between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas matters very little to NFL franchises and fans of teams.
“When you look at the NFL and I travel to cover the NFL. It always blows me away when I fly to a particular city and I see fans of that home team flying in as well… The NFL is such a regional sport,” Bonsignore said. “When you start talking about the Raiders and Utah that’s nothing. A six-hour drive. A short flight. And they’re gonna reach out to Utah I believe. I wouldn’t be shocked that they had at some point a preseason game there or some sort of a function. Their caravan, they are thinking about Utah. I’ve talked to people in the Raiders organization and they recognize that Utah I think it’s the fastest-growing state in the country if I’m not mistaken. At least that’s what I’ve been told from them. So if that’s on their radar, obviously if they’re talking along those terms… it makes all the sense of the world.”
From Bonsignore’s discussions with the team, it sounds like the Raiders recognize Utah for what it is, a state without an NFL team. A wide-open opportunity to build the silver and black Raider Nation.
“I could definitely see Utah becoming a significant Raider state and I think that the Raiders would love to see that happen.”