Oakland A's miss rent payment, citing COVID-19

Oakland A's miss rent payment, citing COVID-19
© Thearon W. Henderson/Getty

The Oakland Athletics have not paid the $1.2 million annual rent that was due April 1 for their use of the Oakland Coliseum, and the Major League Baseball team has cited COVID-19 as the primary reason.

Henry Gardner, the interim head of the Coliseum Authority, said Thursday the A's told him they had "no ability to pay" the annual rent that was due last month, the Mercury News reported.

"They said because they haven't used it, they were not able to generate revenue, and they have no ability to pay," said Gardner. 

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MLB's season was set to begin earlier this spring but has been indefinitely postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. Teams will have lost more than two months of games by the end of May, and while there is talk about a season beginning in July, MLB teams and the players union have yet to finalize a deal. 

The suspensions have hit the bottom lines of a number of pro sports leagues, which are not only missing out on paid attendance but on television rights to games. 

Even if there is a baseball season this year, it will be abbreviated and likely will be held with no fans attending games. 

Gardner said he recognized the impact the virus outbreak has had on everyone but added that the rent could not be voided.

"Maybe there are some things we are willing to negotiate and waive, but we can't just say no rent," he told the Mercury News.

A spokesperson for the A's told The Hill the Coliseum has been kept available for Oakland and Alameda County as a "potential surge location" for the coronavirus outbreak.

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"Due to this important health measure, the local shelter-in-place directive, and the state and local bans on public gatherings of more than 1,000 people at City facilities — including the Coliseum — the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) has been unable to make the Coliseum available for use by the A's," the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson said it notified the JPA in March that the annual rent would be deferred since the building was not available for use, citing the organization's contract.

Ignacio De La Fuente, a board member for the Coliseum Authority, said the A's were taking advantage of the pandemic to avoid rent, adding, "I'm going to make sure we do whatever we can to make them pay," the Mercury News reported.

The antiquated Oakland Coliseum is regarded as one of the worst sports facilities in any professional sport, with the A's invariably near the bottom of salary rankings for players as the team ranked 24th out of 30 MLB teams in 2019. 

In recent years, the Coliseum has reported drainage and sewer problems that have stirred concerns about unsanitary conditions, including dead mice that were found in one of the vending machines on the site.

The organization is looking to break ground on a new 34,000-seat stadium in 2021. However, it is facing legal challenges from a coalition of shipping, steel and trucking companies who oppose the proposed waterfront ballpark. 

Joe Concha contributed.