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Coliseum Concern: Raiders to Play in Oakland? : Pro football: Officials expect Al Davis to make a decision within the next two weeks.

May 22, 1994|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum sources said Saturday they are seriously concerned that the Raiders may be about to announce an agreement to play their home games in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum this fall.

The sources, who spoke to The Times on agreement that their names not be used, said they do not believe reports circulating this weekend that such an agreement will be announced Monday, but they said they have been told a decision could be made within two weeks.

Neither the Raiders nor Oakland city officials returned calls seeking comment.

Coliseum sources, saying the team is now very late in sending out season-ticket applications, noted that Raider officials have repeatedly said they are dissatisfied with assurances they have received that the earthquake-damaged stadium will be ready for football by the first scheduled regular-season game, against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 11.

While Coliseum officials remain convinced that a large portion of the seats will be available by that time, they have not been able to tell the team precisely how many, or how much repair work will remain to be done.

"So there is a possibility they will go to Oakland," one Coliseum source said. "They are seriously weighing the opportunity of what we understand would essentially be a rent-free deal."

Raider owner Al Davis "may be making a serious mistake" if he thinks that he could take the Raiders to Oakland for just one year and then return to Los Angeles, the source added.

He continued: "If they go, and the earthquake is the excuse, the reaction here is going to be fierce. If he goes, it will probably turn out to be for good."

Two Coliseum commissioners willing to speak on the record, Sheldon Sloan and Steven Silverman, said they were unaware of Raider plans. But both are convinced the stadium will be ready on time.

"There is no excuse for Davis to blame the earthquake for having to move to Oakland," Sloan said, adding that "only some unforeseen force such as a strike or another earthquake" could keep the stadium closed in September.

Silverman pointed out that the Coliseum's other main tenant, USC, "has no such qualms as the Raiders. They've sent out season-ticket forms and are preparing to play football."

Another Coliseum source reported that Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris told a Los Angeles friend two weeks ago that despite his own reservations, other city officials were pressing a deal by which the Raiders would go back to the East Bay city, at least temporally.

Harris reportedly expressed fear in the conversation that Davis would no sooner return than he would be making demands that Oakland spend millions to improve the stadium there.

Davis has long maintained that he was made many promises of improvement at the L.A. Coliseum that were never fulfilled.

Coliseum officials, who have been talking with the Raiders, have said they still hope eventually to improve the stadium and specifically to build the luxury boxes that Davis has always wanted. But now, during the earthquake repairs, is not a propitious time, they say.

"The federal and state governments are willing to give us the funds to put the stadium back the way it was, with some additional seismic reinforcement, but naturally they won't build boxes," one source said.

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