NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Oakland RaidersFILE PHOTO: Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Edwards (30) leaps into the stands to celebrate with fans after a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the second quarter at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
By Rory Carroll
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - National Football League team owners gave the green light on Monday to the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas, paving the way for the building of a $1.9 billion stadium in the U.S. gambling capital.
The plan by Raiders owner Mark Davis, who has been the driving force behind the relocation effort, won the support of 31 of the league's 32 owners, with only the Miami Dolphins' ownership dissenting.
"My father used to say that the greatness of the Raiders was in its future," Davis said, referring to Al Davis, from whom he inherited the team in 2011.
"The opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world will give us the opportunity to achieve that greatness," he told reporters following the vote.
The Raiders will play the 2017, 2018 and possibly 2019 seasons in Oakland before kicking off the 2020 season in Las Vegas, Davis said.
It marks the second time Oakland fans will see the Raiders leave the city where they began play in 1960 in the old American Football League.
The team, known for its black and silver uniforms and working-class appeal, played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 before returning to Oakland. The team won two Super Bowl championships in Oakland in 1977 and 1981 and one in Los Angeles in 1984.
Oakland is also about to lose the Golden State Warriors National Basketball Association team, which is building an arena in neighboring San Francisco
Davis acknowledged some fans in Oakland would be disappointed and even angry at the decision, but said frustration should be directed at him and not the team's coaches or players.
He said his goal in the meantime was to "bring a championship back to Oakland."
MOVE HAD BEEN IN DOUBT
The Las Vegas relocation plan appeared to be all but dead after casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and later Goldman Sachs changed their minds earlier this year about helping to finance the stadium construction.
Adelson had pledged up to $650 million toward construction of the domed stadium but pulled his support in January after the team presented a lease proposal without his knowledge.
The Raiders secured financing to replace Adelson's portion from Bank of America Corp .
An additional $750 million will come from public funds via a visitor's tax on Las Vegas strip hotel rooms.
The Raiders will become the second major professional sports franchise to be based in Las Vegas. The National Hockey League's Vegas Golden Knights begin playing in the 2017-18 season.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf made an 11th-hour push over the weekend to convince the owners and the NFL to delay the vote so she could promote a plan to keep the team in Oakland. It included a new, $1.3 billion stadium.
The plan would also have set aside land for the Oakland Athletics baseball team, which currently shares the 51-year-old Oakland Coliseum with the Raiders.
"We had a fully financed, shovel-ready project that was a public-private partnership and we are incredibly disappointed that was not selected," Schaaf told a news conference on Monday.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there were too many unanswered questions surrounding the Oakland stadium plan for it to be viable.
"We understand that contingencies sometimes occur but major contingencies that put the entire project into doubt are just unreasonable," he said at a new conference, citing issues about where the stadium would be located and the fate of the Athletics, who are seeking a new ballpark.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Peter Cooney)