The Raiders Leaving Oakland Is A Case Of Literal Survival

If sea levels keep rising, every sports team will be relocating to deserts.
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Another week, another NFL team moving. Unlike the Chargers going from San Diego to Los Angeles, though, the Raiders’ departure from Oakland to Las Vegas is well thought out and a good idea for everyone involved.

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This week brought the inauguration of Donald Trump as president, which may seem to have little to do with the future of football other than the notion of bread and circuses. Remember, though, that Trump is a climate change denier. The policies he is likely to pursue while in office promise to do little to offset the problems caused by humans to the planet – in fact, it’s not unfair to believe things will get worse.

So, consider the Raiders. Their home stadium, the Oakland Coliseum, sits just across Interstate 880 from Airport Channel, which separates Oakland from Alameda’s Bay Farm Island. There’s a small waterway, Lion Creek, that cuts into the land off Airport Channel and runs along the north and east sides of the Coliseum’s parking lot.

According to the sea level rise maps made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a three-foot rise in sea level would put the northern parts of the parking lot underwater.

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With a six-foot rise, the entire Coliseum complex gets wet.

The Raiders are just getting out while the getting out is good, and heading for the other side of the mountains, in Nevada, safe from the encroaching waters.

The 49ers already achieved this by moving to Santa Clara when they built their new stadium, maybe the only smart thing about their departure from San Francisco. Los Angeles and Seattle should be fine, too, though it’s not like a rising Pacific Ocean doesn’t pose other problems. Other teams do remain at risk.

The Dolphins, despite their stadium being well inland in Miami Gardens, would see their stadium totally underwater with a six-foot rise in sea level, which would really be the least of the problems of an utterly decimated metropolitan area.

Up the Atlantic coast, in Jacksonville, the Jaguars might regret their decision to put a stadium right on the Saint John’s River. The NOAA, though, is nice enough to provide a simulated image of what the place might look like after six feet of sea level rise. It’s wet!

Across Florida, in Tampa, the Buccaneers would be fine to ride things out at their stadium, though they’d presumably have a hard time filling the place as people from the various beach communities in nearby Pinellas County are busy fleeing the area and their sunken homes.

It’s a similar story for Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia – many problems in the area, but the stadia should be okay. The Patriots should be happy that their stadium is in Foxboro rather than Boston, because while Fenway Park might be well suited for Olympic kayaking, the Red Sox are going to have to find somewhere else to play baseball, a sport that requires land.

The northeast, though, is not devoid of trouble for football. The Giants and Jets share their stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and with a three-foot hike in sea level, the Meadowlands winds up becoming an island. At six feet, everything is underwater except for patches of parking lot and the old Brendan Byrne Arena.

That’s a far worse fate than the Superdome would be set to endure, remaining perfectly dry on the NOAA’s maps. We know already that the Superdome can survive ecological disaster, thanks to Hurricane Katrina. But while levees are nice things that keep a city below the current sea level from turning into part of the Gulf of Mexico, it’s easy to see where the future of the Saints, a team that already spent a year temporarily relocated to San Antonio, might not be so viable there.

The San Antonio Saints could rise again, and with them the Utah Dolphins, the St. Louis Giants, the Birmingham Jaguars, and the Albuquerque Jets. None of those markets is as desirable as Las Vegas. Good move by the Raiders to lock in there.

Jesse Spector is on twitter, @jessespector

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