Thursday 21 May 2020

Oakland A’s Say They Can’t Pay Rent Due To Lockdowns; Landlord Says They’re ‘Full Of It’

An ugly battle has broken out between the Oakland A’s and the team’s landlord, the Coliseum Authority, over a sizable rent payment amid the coronavirus pandemic and the state-imposed “lockdowns.”
The Major League Baseball team has failed to deliver a $1.2 million rent check due on April 1, citing the state’s “stay-at-home” order and sports world-devastating social distancing orders. The league, like others, has been shut down since mid-March and is furiously working on a plan to start a truncated season, potentially in early July.
The team’s general counsel D’Lonra Ellis informed Coliseum Authority in a March 31 letter that the team would be deferring the rent payment, citing the landlord inability “to make the Coliseum available for our use” due to mandates imposed by the state and Alameda County, where the stadium is located.
“The A’s had also learned the Coliseum complex was being evaluated as a potential ‘surge site’ for treating COVID-19 patients, the letter stated, and would defer the payment ‘until we have a better understanding of when the Coliseum will be available for our use,'” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.
Ellis said in the letter that the team “support[s]” the use of the facility for that purpose and “trust[s] that you understand and agree with our position in the interest of public health and safety.”
Indeed, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) — who announced this week that some sporting events could reopen by early June, though without fans —  recently named the Coliseum as a potential “surge site.”
But Coliseum Authority officials say the Oakland A’s are “full of it” and exploiting the “surge site” reference in an attempt to get out of holding up their end of the lease.
“They are using the excuse that the Coliseum was being looked at by the governor as a possible coronavirus patient site … but there was never anything official,” said Coliseum Authority member and former Oakland city councilmen Ignacio De La Fuente, the Chronicle reports. “Now, they are saying that the Coliseum was not available. It’s bull.”
The crisis is “not the city’s fault, not the county’s fault or the state’s fault,” said De La Fuente, a former member of the Oakland City Council. “I’m going to make sure we do whatever we can to make them pay,” he said, as reported by Mercury News.
Coliseum Authority interim executive director Henry Gardner addressed the issue in more measured terms Tuesday, but made clear, like De La Fuente, that Ellis’s deferment letter will not be the final word on the issue.
“They said because they haven’t used it, they were not able to generate revenue and they have no ability to pay,” said Gardner. “We recognize that we’ve all been upended in a number of ways. Maybe there are some things we are willing to negotiate and waive, but we can’t just say no rent.”
Gardner emphasized that the team simply paying nothing “is not going to work.”
“[W]e need it, we expect it,” said Gardner in reference to some form of rent payment, explaining that the agency is “trying to close the gaps that we’re going to have to deal with.”

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