Fans departing the train at the Oakland Coliseum station. “The Raider nation is in Oakland; you can’t move the nation,” says Chaze Hales, on left.

Sacramento’s Raiders Fans Will be Left Behind With Team’s Move to Las Vegas

Back Web Only Nov 21, 2018 By Steve Martarano

The platform at the Sacramento Amtrak Station is jammed with Oakland Raiders fans on a Sunday morning in late September, with most decked out in the team’s classic silver and black attire. They’re waiting for the four-car Capitol Corridor 9:13 train to take them to the Oakland Coliseum for the day’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

The mood among the train and bus riders is festive, but restrained. The season hasn’t started the way fans had hoped — the Raiders are winless in their first three games.

Fans line up on the platform of the Downtown Sacramento Amtrak station waiting for the train that will take them to the Oakland Coliseum for a game against the Cleveland Browns in September. (Photos by Steve Martarano)

“I’ll be in Las Vegas for the games,” says Damone Freeman (left) of Sacramento. “I still love them.”

And there’s another underlying factor dampening their mood: the team’s impending move. With the team set to play the 2020 season as the Las Vegas Raiders in a new domed $2 billion stadium, and with the lease on the Coliseum up at the end of this year, fans in the Sacramento area realize they may still be able to root for the Raiders, but will have to find other ways to see them in person.

“The move is a sore subject. I’m not happy, but realize the business aspect,” says Roseville’s Duane Hicks, a season ticket holder riding the train for the first time.

The Amtrak Capitol Corridor train originates in Auburn and goes as far as San Jose. It has been a long-time popular way to the games, especially beginning in 2001 when service increased and Amtrak began offering a 25 percent discount to riders destined for Raiders games. The train sees about a 25-40 percent bump in ridership on Raiders game days, says Karen Bakar, spokesperson for the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority.

Lifetime Raiders fans (clockwise left to right) Darnell Hunter, Drella Hunter, Dyshay McKinnon and Shaneil Bouie on the Amtrak train to a game in September.

“I didn’t know where to go at the station, but when I saw a sea of black, I knew this was the place,” says first-time train rider Jillian LeDuc (right), of West Sacramento, in the concession line with Doug McGowan (left) of Folsom.

While losing the Raiders’ game-day business will impact Amtrak, the Capitol Corridor route still has other sporting destinations. Those include Levi’s Stadium (a possible temporary home for the 2019 Raiders), the SAP Center in San Jose, the Oakland Coliseum — where the A’s will continue to play — as well as adjoining Oracle Arena, which hosts the NBA champion Warriors. The Warriors are also moving to a new facility in San Francisco for the 2019-2020 season.

Across town from the Sacramento Valley Station, three Sacramento Raider Rooters buses filled with 180 fans head to the Coliseum as well. Fans on the bus, part of a booster group around since the late 1960s, will party on the way down and then enjoy an elaborate tailgate barbeque before gametime.

“With the move, we’re all in limbo,” says Donna Atkins, who along with husband, Ed, has organized the bus trips for 20 years. “We will still meet and watch the games and have more away game trips. But we’ve always been a tailgating group. Las Vegas isn’t one of my favorite places, but we will do what our members want.”

Donna Atkins and her husband of 48 years, Ed (lower left), have been operating the Sacramento Raider Rooters group for 20 years. They’re unsure what the group looks like in 2019.

Oakland Raiders vs. the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 1, 2018. The Oakland Coliseum remains the only facility in the country that hosts both Major League Baseball and the NFL on the same field. The Raiders’ lease expires at the end of the 2018 season, leaving the team unsure where they will be playing next year.

Organizers of the Sacramento Raider Rooters, the oldest group of its kind in the Sacramento area, are pondering future plans for the group’s 150 member families. Currently, the group purchases 16 season tickets for members to use on a per game basis and if the Raiders aren’t playing in Oakland next year, those tickets won’t be renewed, Atkins says.

Raiders fans have been through this heartache before when the team — a charter member of the American Football League in 1960 — left in 1982 to become the Los Angeles Raiders before returning to Oakland in 1994. But with the March 2017 announcement regarding the move to Las Vegas, never before in the history of the NFL has a team announced a move out of town so far in advance, forcing fans to watch their team in Oakland for multiple seasons knowing the exodus is coming.

Tommy Walbridge, his father Tom Walbridge and mom Denise get ready to board the Sacramento Raiders Rooter bus back to Sacramento in September.

“The Raider Nation is in Oakland; you can’t move the nation,” says Amtrak train rider Chaze Hales, who has been a season ticket holder for 20 years. “I’m not buying season tickets in Vegas; maybe I’ll look at them on TV.”