After a 13-year road trip, Al Davis says the Raiders are just coming home, baby!
The maverick owner said it all with his signature on a letter of intent committing the Raiders to leave Los Angeles and come back this season to Oakland, the city he abandoned in 1982.
In return, the board governing the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum has agreed to an $85-million stadium modernization and a $31.9-million loan to the team to help it complete the relocation in time to play in Oakland this season. In addition, terms call for the team to receive up to another $10-million to build training facilities.
The NFL called a meeting for the week of July 10 to act on the move, which would leave Los Angeles _ the nation's second-largest media market _ without a football team. Two months ago, the league allowed the Rams to leave Anaheim for St. Louis.
The league opposed Davis' move to Los Angeles, but he won an antitrust suit that cleared the way for the Raiders' departure and other franchise shifts. In addition, many NFL owners will be reluctant to block the Raiders' return because they have moved their franchises or might want to do so in the future.
"For the first time, a team that has left a town has come home!" Mayor Elihu Harris exulted. "The words Oakland and Raiders are synonymous, and even when they went to Los Angeles, it choked on many people's throats to have to put "Los Angeles' and "Raiders' together. And it wasn't just the smog that made it happen."
Davis turned his back on an NFL-backed proposal calling for construction by 1997 of a $250-million stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood in favor of going back to Oakland, where the Raiders had 12 consecutive years of sellouts before heading south.
"That was a better financial deal for the Raiders," said Coliseum board member Ed De Silva, who helped negotiate the terms with Davis. "But he wants to come back to Oakland. He wants to come back to a city where he can win."
The pact, approved unanimously at the end of a 29-minute Coliseum board meeting, still must be reviewed by the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
"The Raider organization has chosen to relocate to Oakland. We look forward to a dynamic 1995 season," said a statement from the Raiders faxed to news organizations, with the word "Los Angeles" blacked out on the letterhead.
The NFL issued a terse statement that offered no opinion on the move, which must be approved by 23 of its 30 clubs.
The Raiders left in 1982 in a dispute over stadium improvements. They overcame league attempts to block the move by winning an antitrust suit that eventually cost the NFL millions of dollars in damages and legal fees.
Part of a statement faxed Friday to news organizations by the Los Angeles Raiders, with the words "Los Angeles" blacked out on the letterhead:
"The Raiders were fortunate to have several "Standard of Excellence' stadium opportunities for the future, in both Oakland and Los Angeles.
"A number of issues factored into our decision _ but most important was the knowledge that both venues should and will have NFL football in the very near future.
"The Raider organization has chosen to relocate to Oakland. We look forward to a dynamic 1995 season.
"The Raiders know that much work remains for all in order to make this relocation to a remodeled, state of the art, Oakland Stadium a success. We have been assured by East Bay authorities that success can and will be achieved.
"The Raider organization worked long and hard with the NFL to develop the state of the art Hollywood Park stadium opportunity and it remains a viable site attractive to NFL teams. The inadequate stadia in the Los Angeles area for the interim years influenced our decision. We wish Hollywood Park well."
_ ASSOCIATED PRESS