Apparently, San Antonio is a far more legitimate option than what was originally thought when the news of Mark Davis' flirtation with the city broke. It had sounded like it was more of a visit out of convenience, but new information about the meeting is coming out showing that a lot more work and effort was actually put into it than just it happening on a whim.
Thanks to a story by Tom Orsborn of MySA.com and Josh Baugh of the San Francisco Chronicle, we now know just how much effort the City of San Antonio put into their sales pitch to Mark Davis. Not only did San Antonio war-game the potential of adding an NFL team to the city, they also updated an NFL relocation study that previously had deemed San Antonio unready for an NFL or MLB team.
The relocation study had originally stated that San Antonio was not ready for another major sports franchise in the city because of it's lack of Fortune 500 companies. Now it is updated and recommends "formalizing discussions with the ownership group of the Oakland Raiders". It also recommends spending the money to upgrade the Alamodome up to NFL standards which would cost the city approximately $27.4M.
In the grand scheme of things spending that little bit of money in upgrades to bring in an NFL team is a minute amount of money. Part of the reason that it is so little though is because the City would already have to spend over $40M in infrastructure updates for if they won the right to host the NCAA's Final Four again. Even so, that is not a lot of work that needs to be done to get up to the NFL's standard.
The stadium already being NFL ready basically is a major draw, but that is not the only thing that is grabbing Mark Davis' attention in Texas. He also has a local billionaire ready to buy into the team to get them to move to San Antonio as well, something that could be very attractive to Mark for when his inheritance tax comes into play.
That billionaire is no stranger to being a part of an NFL team, he is former Vikings owner B.J. "Red" McCombs (could a name get more "Texas" than that?!) whose ownership in Minnesota lasted from 1998-2004. McCombs was quick to point out that he didn't know if Mark would be interested in local investors but made it very clear that the money is there if he was interested. Who needs Fortune 500 companies when you got a Texas billionaire looking for a new toy?
Mark's visit wasn't just with B.J. McCombs, it was also with a whole group of powerful players in the San Antonio scene. The list goes as such; former mayor (and friend) Henry Cisneros, then-mayor Julian Castro, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, and Spurs chairman Peter Holt. There were "several others" in attendance too but the names were not revealed.
With the powers that be in the city all together for this meeting it is clear that it is more than just a smokescreen. That is not to say that you should get ready for the San Antonio Raiders to come to town if your a local Texan, but it certainly was not a smokescreen meeting. This was a sincere look into the capabilities of the City of San Antonio.
Another hurdle for the SA to overcome was the possibility of the NBA's Spurs not being ok with it, but that is another step that the city was able to take during the meeting with Mark Davis. Mark was given assurances that the Spurs would not be a roadblock for a deal if he wanted to come to Texas and that they would find a way to coexist and work together.
That is no small thing either, with the Spurs being the big dog in town they needed to be on board for it to become a reality. The assurances have now been officially given that they will indeed be willing to work with the Raiders if a relocation did come to pass.
Out of all the power players involved in this discussion it is clear that the leader and architect of the plan is former mayor Henry Cisneros. He has been a key to the whole project from the beginning with his connections to the Raiders and his ability to woo Mark Davis. McCombs could not say enough about what Henry has meant to the process.
"Most people don't have any clue what Henry's leadership means in terms of opportunities for San Antonio," McCombs said. "His leadership is just head and shoulders above others in selling (San Antonio). I am so glad that he has taken a role in this."
Don't get too worried yet Oakland natives and fans that want to see the Raiders stay in California, a deal is no where near set in stone yet. This is only a very preliminary discussion and it is just a step towards an actual relocation. Even McCombs admits that it would be very hard for Mark Davis to make the decision to move the Raiders out of California.
"For a guy to pick up and move from a place he's been as long as he's been there, that takes a lot" said McCombs about Mark's tough decision, "It may not happen. But you got to be in the game, you've got to give yourself a chance, and that's what Henry's doing."
Just how much interest Mark Davis has in this possible relocation is a complete unknown, but it is now without a doubt a real interest being shown by the Raiders. Even the city counsel in Oakland admits that they are not shocked at Davis looking for a new suitor considering they still have a $600M gap in funding for a football-only stadium in Oakland.
As for Mark Davis himself, he did not mince words while talking to The Chronicle about the possible relocation. He made it very clear that he does not have time to waste by making an insincere inquiry in San Antonio but that his preference is to stay in Oakland.
"It was a serious conversation," Davis said to The Chronicle. "I don't waste my time just having meetings. But we continue to try to get something done in Oakland."
With a $600M funding gap though it is becoming less and less realistic for that something to be done with Oakland. If not, San Antonio is definitely become a very real option for the team. Sorry for the bad news local fans, but San Antonio is not just a smokescreen. The ball is in Oakland's court, but they might not have the strength to get a shot off before the clock strikes zero.