There’s no denying that our contributor Scott Winter was at the forefront of covering the Raiders relocation to Las Vegas and the ultimate approval of the funding of the Raiders stadium. Winter was on site for the event and here are his thoughts and reflections about the relocation and the team’s soon-to-be sparkling new home.

Ceremonial shovels usually aren’t very sexy. When they’re clad with the iconic Raiders shield, with the glimmering lights of the Las Vegas Strip reflecting off of them, it’s a much different story.

For me, it was a bitter-sweet experience. As a native son of Oakland, I thought of those fan in the Bay Area who are going to lose their team for the second time in a lifetime. The void in leadership in Oakland, as team owner Mark Davis described, that refused to make the land available directly to the team or the NFL. This could have been their night. Instead, the state whose motto is “Battle Born” won the battle for one of the world’s most valuable and well-known sports brand.

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Raiders owner Mark Davis celebrates the groundbreaking of his team’s new stadium in Las Vegas.

Mark Davis also used the words “bitter-sweet” when describing the move as well. Davis spent over a decade trying to find a solution in Oakland only to be snubbed at every turn. Oakland and Alameda in 1995 and 1996 put together the ill-conceived coliseum and arena renovations that flew about as long as Howard Hughes’ infamous Spruce Goose. It was all too heavy and poorly designed to take flight in Oakland.

I can understand that.

Both renovations put an economic strain on, not only the city and county, but the three sports franchises that resided there as well. However, the municipalities refused to put any skin in the game this time around. As such, all three teams tried to find solutions in other locations. The Golden State Warriors are moving to San Francisco in the currently under construction Chase Center. The Oakland A’s tried and failed to move to San Jose, and are now stuck making an attempt in Oakland that none of the leaders are embracing. And the Raiders are leaving for Las Vegas in 2020.

Clearly, Oakland’s priorities aren’t keeping its professional sports franchises. That’s their choice and people in Oakland should realize that before projecting blame on team owners, league officials or anyone else.

Mark Davis feels “Bitter-Sweet” about the Move to Las Vegas.

I spoke to Mark Davis at the NFL Owners meeting in Phoenix this past spring when his fellow owners approved the team’s move to Las Vegas. He told me then, after the NFL owners voted 31-1 to allow the Raiders to move, that this the relocation, while the right choice for his team, was difficult and full of conflicting emotions. His feelings on that subject still have not changed.

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“Mr. Las Vegas” Wayne Newton and Raiders Hall of Famer Howie Long at ceremony.

“This team is still the Oakland Raiders and we are trying to win a Super Bowl for those fans,” Davis said at the post groundbreaking press conference. “We’ve been working hard to find the balance and make the people in Oakland proud.”

Mark had two choices. Stay in Oakland and eventually become financially ruined, playing in a decrepit stadium, or take risk and move the team to Las Vegas. In reality, moving to Las Vegas was his only choice.

This team is still the Oakland Raiders and we are trying to win a Super Bowl for those fans. We’ve been working hard to find the balance (until the move) and make the people in Oakland proud. – Mark Davis, Raiders owner

“My Dad said the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,” Davis said during the stadium ceremony. “Well the future is now, Las Vegas the Raiders are coming.”

Sitting next to me was Matt Gutierrez of Sports Adrenaline and lifelong Raiders fan. I asked him his thoughts.

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Tommy White and his Laborers Local 872 were instrumental in the Raiders relocation to Las Vegas.

“I hated the thought of them moving, but they are coming to my city, anywhere else and it would have made me sick,” Gutierrez said. “I feel for the fans in Oakland, but the Raiders deserve to finally have a world class stadium. Las Vegas and Nevada stepped up, and did what Oakland would not.”

And despite our mixed emotions for the people back in Oakland, this night was for the people of Las Vegas and the people of Nevada.

Labors Local 872 in the spotlight.

All throughout the night, the men and women of the Labors Local 872 were in the spotlight, and rightfully so. Last year the Local 872 made NFL history. They threw everything they had into getting the funding required for the Raiders to move, including traveling to the state’s capital of Carson City, to lobby state legislators to vote yes on stadium funding. It was unprecedented.

Never before had a union threw its entire weight behind supporting an NFL stadium project and it would never have happened without their full backing either. On this night, the Raiders organization made sure that those men and women were honored for their unflinching support.

It’s a win-win-win for us, the Raiders, and Las Vegas. My people are going to be able to get back to work, and the Raiders get a world class stadium built by the finest men and women in the industry. – Tommy White, Laborers Local 872

I spoke to Tommy White, the head of Local 872 and a member of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, about the impact of the this project. He expressed just how much the project means not only to the working men and women of his union, but to the entire community.

It’s a win-win-win for us, the Raiders, and Las Vegas,” White said. “My people are going to be able to get back to work, and the Raiders get a world class stadium built by the finest men and women in the industry.

“We are going to build a stadium that is going to show the world that we mean business here in Las Vegas. Not only that, but we are already seeing a ripple effect in new construction in Las Vegas.”

A Night to Behold

Roger Goodell said it best on this night.

“Only in [Las] Vegas can you turn a groundbreaking into a show,” Goodell said.

As the ceremony commenced, 58 lights blazed in the background, pointing skyward sending a call to the heavens, honoring the 58 victims of the 1 October 2017 mass shooting. That moment, and the response from Las Vegas, and Nevada leadership, was at the forefront of the event. All of this as the brave first responders – the guests of Raiders owner Mark Davis and the team – marched through the crowd to a standing ovation.

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Scott Winter, Eddie Ramirez of Local 872, and Scott Gulbransen

It was a show from beginning to end. Yet, the significance of the night will begin to take shape in the coming months. The Raiders breaking ground on the stadium project really means thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars in economic flow for the Las Vegas metropolitan area. It means a world class, state of the art, stadium for the Raiders, and their collegiate counterparts at UNLV, to play and shine in. It offers a world class venue for entertainers at every level. Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, will no longer miss out on those mega events.

Every major casino put its weight behind this project. Governor Brian Sandoval, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, and Mayor Carolyn Goodman, all championed the project from it’s inception. Even the Sands Corp., represented on this night by Andy Abboud, were in attendance. After all Sheldon Adelson was a key player, early on, in making this project a reality. The Raiders organization left no one out, and made sure everyone who helped make this “field of dreams” a reality, was invited.

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58 lights to honor 58 victims of the 1 October shooting in Las Vegas.

Again, breaking ground is not just about the physical stadium and the Raiders future NFL home. It’s much more for a community that has clawed its way back from the ugly days of the 2008 recession. It’s another example of how often throughout its history, Las Vegas is always underestimated. It’s people, it’s leaders and its allure – all made this thing happen.

Now, Las Vegas, and the state of Nevada, will enjoy more jobs, economic growth, and community pride. This groundbreaking is another example of the perseverance of a great city that has, once again, arrived as a world class city.

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