Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oakland struck spring success with the Invaders, but could it duplicate that three decades later?

Oakland, California, has a rich football tradition that spans at least 50 years, thanks to the Raiders of the American Football League/National Football League.

It also is part of the sixth-largest television market in the United States, according to Nielsen, along with San Francisco and San Jose.

Oakland has just one spring outdoor alternative professional football team in its past – the United States Football League’s Invaders. Playing in the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, the Invaders strangely saw their season average attendance go down as the team’s record improved. In 1983, Oakland qualified for the playoffs at 9-9, and averaged 31,211 fans. By 1985, thanks in large part to the fall season-induced merger with the Michigan Panthers, the Invaders were 13-4-1 and reached the USFL Championship Game, but averaged just 17,509 fans per home game.

The Raiders still play at the Coliseum, now named the Coliseum. The “Black Hole” hasn’t been as full of late – after filling the Coliseum to 91.8 percent capacity during the 2008 NFL season, the last four seasons (70.3 in 2009, 73.7 in 2010, 94.0 in 2011 and 86.0 in 2012) have not been nearly as successful on the whole.

The Coliseum is the only multi-purpose stadium in the United States which still plays host to both an NFL team and a Major League Baseball team (the Athletics), making a new spring football team a stressor the stadium might not be able to handle.

BOTTOM LINE – Despite the declining attendance in recent years, Oakland has very loyal – and rabid – football fans. Spring outdoor football worked there for a time three decades ago, and it’s possible it could work there again, in spite of so many more sports choices than were present in the 1980s.

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