The Atlanta Falcons don’t figure to move to Las Vegas anytime soon – they’re actually building a new stadium in Atlanta that will open in 2017 – but another NFL franchise might.
And sooner rather than later.
“If we had this discussion five years ago, I think we all know what the answer would have been,” Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. (It would have been), ‘No, it’s not really viable. It’s never really been talked about. It’s not something that’s on anybody’s radar screen.’ It clearly has changed. The discussion has changed. And Oakland, in the discussions they’ve had, have probably changed it. I think (Arthur Blank’s) comments the other day were right on point. One of the things you have to start with is (asking) is it the right market?”
Las Vegas very well could be the right market. That alone, however, shouldn’t dictate whether a franchise moves there.
“We have to, as a league, always do everything we can to keep franchises where they are,” McKay said. “If they move, it should only be because they’ve exhausted every single avenue they can to try to keep the team where it is. That includes the Chargers, who are trying, and that includes the Raiders. But the market of Vegas is one that . . . is so much more viable now as a future market. In the past, it would have been dismissed. But the times have certainly changed. But before you advance it further, No. 1, you have to figure out can we find a way to keep teams in their home locations? And No. 2, when it comes to Vegas, if you’re actually going to have the discussion, then let’s make sure we understand what the market is.”
Indeed, it is an antiquated notion to dismiss Vegas simply because of gambling. Why? Because it’s never been easier to place a bet on a sporting event. Heck, you can do it from your cell phone.
But Brandon Tierney feels that while Vegas must prove it is a viable market, Oakland has already proven it is not.
“Well, I think they have proven it in the stadium and the state of the stadium and so forth,” McKay said of the Raiders. “But I think the fan base, especially when I see that they’re selling out their season tickets, has not gone away from the Raiders. It’s been the viability of that stadium. It’s a tough place to play. Its gotten very, very old and very challenging, I’m sure, for Mr. Davis and for Mark to deal with it financially and the viability of all those things. But as far as the market goes, you still have a very engaged fan base. When you go play there, it’s an unbelievable experience, and I’d hate to see us not be able to preserve that.”