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Oxnard Feels No Loss Over Possible Raiders Move

June 24, 1995|PAUL ELIAS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Reaction to the distinct possibility that Oxnard will lose the Los Angeles Raiders was swift and near unanimous Friday: Who cares?

From Mayor Manuel Lopez to the clubhouse at River Ridge Golf Course to the four twentysomethings whiling away the day drinking beer and shooting pool at a harbor-side bar Friday afternoon, Oxnard residents and business people expressed ambivalence to the news that Raiders' owner Al Davis has agreed to move his team to Oakland.

There is a good chance the Raiders also will move their training camp from Oxnard to the Bay Area, Lopez said. The team moved to Oxnard because it wanted to be near Los Angeles, he said, and now that the team is returning to Oakland, Davis might use the same rationale to move the training camp north.

Not that some people care.

"Now that they're leaving Oxnard, I wonder if the city will give me the same deal they gave Al Davis," Pat Logue said while hanging out at the River Ridge Golf Course clubhouse. "I can afford $1 a year."

Oxnard officials--in what some leaders now call the city's worst deal ever--wooed the Raiders to Oxnard with such a proposal nine years ago. Oxnard agreed to maintain the Raider practice field year-round while charging Davis a single dollar a year in rent.

Moreover, the city helped finance construction and co-signed loans to build the nearby Radisson Suite Hotel so Davis would have a place to billet his players. That deal now costs Oxnard taxpayers nearly $1 million a year in bond payments because the hotel's developer has fallen behind $19 million on the bonds.

"The move of the Raiders never met the expectations we had anyway," Lopez said. "We had these grandiose ideas about all of these Oxnard [datelines] appearing in papers around the world and all of these people coming to Oxnard."

Lopez said he and other Oxnard leaders proffered the sweetheart deal because they hoped the city's youngsters would gather to watch the practices and that star players would become active in the community, taking part in Boys & Girls Club functions and high school sports.

That never happened.

Soon after arriving in Oxnard in the summer of 1985, Davis threw a black tarpaulin around the fence surrounding the practice field, while the players ventured into Oxnard only occasionally.

Lopez said these days he routinely runs into Oxnard residents who are surprised to learn the Raiders hold training camp in their city.

Down at Chuy's bar at Channel Islands Harbor, four Ventura men drank pitchers of beer, shot pool and cursed Davis on Friday afternoon.

"I don't think he [cared] . . . about Oxnard," said Paul Schell, 24.

"Get 'em out of here, they're worthless," 24-year-old Greg Campbell yelled across the pool table. "I don't see the Raiders doing a whole lot for the city."

Steven Kinney of the Oxnard Economic Development Corp. agreed that having the Raiders training camp in town has not helped promote the city one bit.

"They're kind of an invisible presence," Kinney said. "There was a lot of possibility for community involvement and publicity. It was kind of an opportunity lost because of their closed-door attitude toward life."

Davis chose to isolate his organization from the community in nearly every way.

"Davis would chase us off a hill on the golf course" overlooking the field, said Mondo Cortez, 21. Cortez runs the barbecue at River Ridge Golf Course, adjacent to the Raiders' training field.

But Cortez said he will continue to root for the Raiders. So will Tori Henry, 29, a bartender at Champ's Sports Bar and Grill.

"A lot of people are upset that the Raiders are leaving," she said during a quiet afternoon in the bar. "But I just look at it as a longer drive to home games."

Meanwhile, Radisson officials refused to comment on the Raiders' move. But several employees expressed disappointment.

"I loved the Raiders," said Chris Adams, who worked in the hotel's gift shop. "They'd come in here and sneak a candy bar. I've never seen muscles so large."

Staff writer Miguel Bustillo contributed to this report.

* MAIN STORIES: A1, C1

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