Oakland Coliseum management: A's skipped rent, used pandemic as an excuse

The COVID-19 shutdown has created a rent crisis in the United States, prompting some to call for canceling rent as laid-off and furloughed workers see their income cut off.

Count the Oakland A’s among the “cancel rent” crowd.

According to Oakland Coliseum management, the A’s skipped an annual $1.2 million payment in April. Coliseum Authority Interim Executive Director Henry Gardner confirmed the news to the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday.

The reason why depends on whom you asked.

Coliseum: ‘No ability to pay’

Gardner says the A’s claimed they just flat out couldn’t pay.

“They said because they haven’t used it, they were not able to generate revenue and they have no ability to pay,” Gardner told the Mercury News.

Gardner said that Coliseum management was willing to negotiate, but expects payment.

The A’s didn’t respond to the Mercury News’ request for comment.

Letter: A’s cite availability as reason not to pay

The paper did obtain a March 31 letter from A’s general counsel D’Lorna Ellis citing the potential use of the venue as a surge site for people displaced by the pandemic.

The A’s “recently learned that the Coliseum Complex is being evaluated as a potential surge site to accommodate individuals impacted by the virus, and we support its use for that purpose if needed,” the letter reads, according to the Mercury News.

The A's are facing criticism that they're using the pandemic as an excuse to skip out on rent. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

The letter cited the stadium’s surge-site status as reason to defer payment “until we have a better understanding of when the Coliseum will be available for our use.” 

“We trust that you understand and agree with our position in the interest of public health and safety,” the letter continues.

Board members not buying it

Coliseum Authority board member Ignacio De La Fuente told the Mercury News that the A’s are using the health crisis as an excuse to skip rent.

“It’s just an excuse to try to not pay when the city needs the money the most,” said De La Fuente, a former city councilman.

The Coliseum is co-owned by the city of Oakland and Alameda County.

This dispute is taking place against the uncertainty of baseball being played this season. MLB and the MLBPA are negotiating how and if to return amid the COVID-19 crisis. But there are no guarantees that baseball games will be scheduled for Oakland in 2020.

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