Raiders will block off seats at O.co in an attempt to prevent TV blackouts

Raiders helmets hang from bleachers. Photo by Kevin Fixler.

The team announced that 10,000 seats will be blocked off in the stadium’s upper section to avoid television blackouts. Photo by Kevin Fixler.

Oakland Raiders fans may spot something different at the O.co Coliseum this season.

The team announced that 10,000 seats will be blocked off in the stadium’s upper section to avoid television blackouts under an NFL rule that requires teams to sell out home games before the game can be shown on local television.

The upper deck, often called “Mount Davis” in reference to former Raiders owner Al Davis, is result of a 1996 expansion when the team decided to return to Oakland after spending 12 years in Los Angeles. With the seats blocked off, the reconfigured stadium’s capacity will be 53,250—making it the smallest venue in the National Football League.

Last year the Raiders drew 433,732 fans, the lowest overall attendance in the NFL.

With the new seating changes, the team hopes to “create a vibrant community of season ticketholders,” Raiders CEO Amy Trask wrote in an email. Season ticketholders, who had seats in the upper section, will be moved to the third deck and will pay lower prices, Trask added.

“The great majority of fans we are relocating are responding very enthusiastically – and while some are disappointed that their seats will not be available this season, once we explain the location to which we’ll relocate them, and the lower price, most are responding positively,” she wrote.

Even if the Raiders have a winning season and begin to sell out games, once the section has been tarped off it cannot be reopened for the remainder of the season, according to NFL rules.

Some Raider fans said they believe the move to reduce seating could help the team.

“As I understand it, it will have two major effects,” said Mike Sommers, the president of the Raiders Fan Convention. “One, less blackouts to local TV, and two, more fans filling the lower seats.

“To me all of that is great!” he said. Sommers said he expected the lower price to sell more tickets, leading to “more intense noise from the crowd to help our team.”

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