Where will the Raiders play in 2011?

While the Raiders try to zero in on who they'll take with their first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, an equally important decision awaits on where the team will be playing in two years.

The Raiders' current lease with the Oakland Coliseum expires following the 2010 season and despite earlier efforts by the Raiders to extend the deal, nothing has happened.

So as Al Davis and Tom Cable go about assembling next season's roster, chief executive Amy Trask has been given the task of finding the Raiders a new home, something Davis deems critical from a revenue standpoint for the team to be successful in the future.

Ironically, for a team that has moved twice in the last 30 years the Raiders would prefer to stay put in Oakland instead of packing their bags again.

"I like this stadium right here," Davis said in February. "I like this location right here."

The Raiders signed the lease in 1995 and broached Coliseum officials about an extension early on in their relationship. But the team was told that no extensions would be granted to it or A's, who share the Coliseum with the Raiders.

Later, the Coliseum backtracked and offered the A's three one-year lease extensions but nothing for the Raiders.

Trask, who is spearheading the Raiders' efforts to find a home, subsequently suggested to city and county officials a redevelopment project for the site where the Coliseum currently sits, with a new stadium being the catalyst to bring in new businesses such as restaurants, retail shops and entertainment venues.

"The site of our current stadium is very well served by public transportation as well as by freeway access," Trask told SBI. "We believe that a new stadium on this site can serve as the centerpiece of an urban redevelopment project that will benefit the entire region. We have suggested to he city that we collectively pursue the idea of an urban redevelopment project, anchored by a stadium."

So far, however, the Raiders have been met by resistance.

For starters, the city of Oakland and Alameda County are still paying off the bonds issued for the renovation of the Coliseum when the Raiders returned from Los Angeles in 1995. Those bonds -- which also paid for amenities requested by the A's as part of the renovation -- cost taxpayers $20 million annually with the total cost projected now to be near $400 million.

With a national economy that continues to sink further and further while unemployment rises at an alarming rate, and , it's highly unlikely voters will approve additional bonds or anything else that requires public financing.

The Raiders, however, believe the redevelopment project would be ideal in the current economy. New businesses, after all, mean new jobs.

A perfect illustration of that theory is the San Francisco Giants. The Giants played for years at Candlestick Park, the current home of the 49ers and without question the worst stadium in the NFL. But San Francisco voters approved a new stadium for rundown section of the city just south of the Bay Bridge.

Once the stadium was built, new businesses flocked to the area and now AT&T Park is one of the most vibrant spots in all of San Francisco.

"We are keenly aware that in the current economic environment, creativity and ingenuity in fashioning a stadium solution is of paramount importance," Trask said. "It is in that spirit that we initiated discussions about the potential of a stadium development project as a catalyst for an entire urban redevelopment."

A new stadium is also vital to the Raiders' future viability, according to Davis, who believes it will be tough for his team to survive without one. New stadiums generally lead to increased revenue by way of ticket sales, luxury suite sales and corporate sponsors that are reluctant to lend their names to older, aging venues.

"It's very difficult because when you talk to me about free agency, of court it's difficult," Davis said. "It's ridiculous not to say it. You've got to have the finance to compete with these other teams."

Other sites in and around Oakland have been explored as potential sites for a new stadium should the Raiders not be able to work out a deal with their current landlords. Trask and other team officials met with representatives from the city and county and toured some of the sites, though nothing ever came from it.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, at the invitation of Trask, attended a Raiders game late in the 2008 season and spoke with reporters about the importance of and need for the team getting a new stadium.

"It's clear, and I think everyone accepts it, that something has to get done here with a new stadium at some point," Goodell said. "I think it's important for all of our teams to stay in their communities. This is something we've focused on an awful lot over the last 10 or 15 years, in trying to make sure we create an environment where the team can be successful, the community can be successful and together they can create a partnership that's going to do great things for the fans and the community."

One option getting a lot of publicity in recent weeks has been the idea of sharing a stadium with the 49ers. Both teams obviously want and need new homes, and considering their proximity to one another, a new shared stadium would seem to make sense.

The Giants and Jets currently share facilities and the New York name, even though their stadium is in New Jersey.

"We have a very good working relationship with the 49ers and we are in contact regularly," said Trask. "If our respective organizations wish to discuss a shared stadium I am confidence that those discussions will be cooperative, collaborative and congenial.

"We do have -- and will keep -- and open mind about a shared stadium. We should therefore be open-minded about the location of such a shared stadium and we believe that our current site is optimally located with tremendous transportation options and access."

Davis said he is open to sharing a stadium but would need more details about the financing of such a deal before he commits to it.

"It does not scare me. I would have to know the economics and who would build the stadium and all the factors involved in it," Davis said. "I would have to know that and I would have to know how you deviate the two teams that are in the stadium. I'm looking for a place where our fans could go. It's our fans and (if) the economics make sense. A stadium is vital to our fans, vital to our team.

"There are a lot of issues involved. When we came back to Oakland they fixed it. When we went to Los Angeles they fixed it. When we started in Oakland they built it. I'm not used to building stadiums."

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Michael Wagaman has been covering the Oakland Raiders since 1996 and has been covering the NFL since 1988.

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