Athletics Defer Rental Payment; Coliseum Authority Cries Foul

John Hickey

You can add the Oakland Athletics to the long list of Americans and American institutions that didn’t pay their rent this month.

The money for the annual rental payment of $1.2 million was due on April 1, but the A’s apparently are invoking a clause in their rental agreement that gives the club the right to defer payment when the building is not available to the club.

The failure to pay on the part of the ball club doesn’t been to be a lack of income. And the team isn’t refusing to pay. It is opting to defer its payment.

On March 30, California Gov. Gavin Newsom identified the Oakland Coliseum as a potential “surge site,” if it happened that an influx of COVID-19 patients created the need for additional health care capacity in the state. The A’s said they would do “anything and everything possible to help those in need.”

The Army Corps of Engineers visited the site along with health officials and determined that the facility could be adapted to “surge site” use, if necessary.

To this point, that need has not materialized, and Newsom said Monday he could see the A’s and the other four Major League Baseball teams in the state being able to use their home ballparks beginning in June and July.

The San Francisco Chronicle obtained a copy of the March 31 letter that the A’s sent to the Coliseum Authority and released the relevant text Tuesday afternoon. The subject of revenue was not mentioned. Instead, the club cited provisions in the lease agreement that gives the team the right to defer payment if the building isn’t available to them.

However, that’s not the way the Coliseum Authority is taking the matter.

Executive Director Henry Gardner told the San Jose Mercury News A’s executives told him that it was lack of revenue that led to the current situation.

“They said because they haven’t used (the Coliseum), they were not going to be able to generate revenue and they have no ability to pay.”

While some MLB clubs have cut costs during the pandemic-induced shutdown of the sport by trimming jobs and reducing the pay of remaining employees, the A’s haven’t done either of those things. Like many MLB clubs, they have pledged to pay their employees through May.

In the March 31 letter sent by the club to the Coliseum Authority said the team was deferring payment “until we have a better understanding of when the Coliseum will be available for our use.”

With Newsom’s proclamation Monday, presumably the Coliseum Authority and the A’s should know relatively soon about the site’s availability to the club.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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