Henry Gardner doesn’t know if the Oakland A’s and Major League Baseball will be back in July.
He is confident, however, that the Oakland Coliseum will be ready for the A’s to play socially distanced games then. Batter up, to be sure, as long as there are no fans in the stands.
Gardner, the former Oakland City Manager who now sits as the interim executive director of the Coliseum Authority, has had a busy few months. He’s had to deal with working mostly from home while seeing both the Coliseum and the adjacent Arena having to cancel or postpone games, concerts and assorted gatherings that normally would make the facility at 66 Ave. and I-800 one of the East Bay’s busiest hubs.
And then there was the A’s decision to withhold – the term the baseball club used was “defer” – their Coliseum rent while says the Coliseum wasn’t ready for use. There had been some talk that the payment would be made by Tuesday, but as of mid-afternoon, Gardner said the two sides are still in discussions over the $1.25 million due.
The Coliseum, Gardner says, is good to go, and the 67-page outline of health and safety rules for socially distanced baseball put out by MLB in consultation with health authorities will find a friendly home in the Coliseum.
“The Coliseum is just such a cavernous facility,” Gardner said. “If there are no fans and there aren’t more than 250 people on the site, then there’s not much more that we have to do. Then it’s up to the team to monitor its own social distancing with the players and with their support staff.
“The things that we have to do are pretty basic, making sure that the people who come on site have ready access to sanitizers, everybody keeps their masks on and keeps their distance. It’s all the things that health officials around the county have decided work. With no fans, it’s less of a challenge.”
However, the Coliseum was built to hold 55,000 people, and when they show up, that’s going to be, in Gardner’s view “a huge challenge.”
“That would be a problem if we fill the stadium up,” he said. “But I don’t see that happening any time soon.”
The same goes for the Arena, which through 2019 was the home of the Golden State Warriors. It’s enclosed, obviously, and the lack of space plays into the transmission of the coronavirus.
“Keeping an adequate distance, we can do,” Gardner said, talking about limiting ticket sales. That leads to different problems. “It becomes something of a problem for the promoters, though. Promoters want to sell every seat in the house. They probably do have a point where it’s not profitable to put on an event if they can’t sell a certain percentage of the house.”
The next event schedule at the complex is in August. It’s in the Arena, and Gardner sees no chance of it going off as scheduled.
But if baseball comes back in late June for workouts and for a season starting sometime in July, bring it on.
“There’s the possibility of no-fan baseball in the first quarter (July, August & September),” Gardner said. “But I don’t see anything in the Arena in the first quarter or maybe nothing in the Arena in the second quarter. And that’s a problem, because we run the facility off those events. That’s how we generate the revenues.
“I just see our world being very different for the next 18 months.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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