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Oakland A's Refusing To Pay Coliseum Rent Because Of COVID-19 Shutdown

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- The Oakland Athletics, who have had their 2020 season sidelined by both the Major League Baseball and Alameda County COVID-19 shutdowns, has told Oakland Coliseum officials they will not be paying rent at the Coliseum until the season begins.

Henry Gardner, the interim head of the Coliseum Authority, told the East Bay Times that the A's had informed him they had "no ability to pay" the annual rent due April 1.

The average salary for a Major League Baseball player is 4.3 million dollars.  But the Oakland A's pay only $1.2 million dollars to use the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum for the entire season.  That seems like a bargain, but according to a letter sent to the city and county, that's still too steep a price for the A's.

"Because they have not been able to create any revenues out of the site, they don't have any money to pay" said Ignacio De La Fuente, who sits on the board of the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority. "I mean, that's basically what it says, almost verbatim, right?"

In a statement to KPIX 5, team officials said the reason behind their refusal to pay rent was pretty simple. They can't use the facility under the current Alameda County shelter in place order.

"The Joint Powers Authority has been unable to make the Coliseum available for use by the A's," the statement read. "The A's look forward to when the City and County feels it's safe to lift the current directives, and the A's are granted access to the facility to play."

The statement also indicated the Coliseum was examined as a possible place to put a surge of COVID-19 patients.  "Given the local state of emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Oakland Coliseum has been kept available by the City of Oakland and Alameda County as a potential surge location."

De La Fuente said that's simply not true.  He says the site was never designated and therefore never removed from other uses.

"We have never notified them or implied that the facilities were not available. They decided to use that as an excuse," he said.  "I don't know where they got it from but not from us."

Under a license agreement with the JPA, the team may face penalties for failure to pay.

De La Fuente says the city and county are still paying more than $20 million dollars per year for renovations made back in the 1990s. And with the huge deficits local governments are facing from the pandemic, this is not a good time for the A's to skip out on the rent.

"They should, as good citizens and people that really get the benefits of the city, to pay the rent just like anybody else," said De La Fuente.

Even when the games return to the Coliseum they likely will be play at least for the first few weeks without fans in the stands. Also missing will be Stomper, the A's beloved mascot. MLB officials have banned all mascots.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg among the changes being debated by the league.

With showers at ballparks discouraged and players possibly arriving in uniform, like they did when they were teenagers. Team personnel will be banned from eating at restaurants on road trips.

The traditional exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps, and bat boys and girls, according to a 67-page draft of Major League Baseball's proposed 2020 Operations Manual. A copy was sent to teams Friday and obtained by The Associated Press. The guidelines, first reported by The Athletic, are subject to negotiation with the players' association.

Teams will be allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still be negotiated.

Spitting is prohibited along with water jugs and the use of saunas, steam rooms, pools and cryotherapy chambers. Hitting in indoor cages is discouraged, batting gloves encouraged.

Batting practice pitchers are to wear masks, dugout telephones disinfected after each use. Players may not touch their face to give signs, and they're not allowed to lick their fingers. Teams are encouraged to hold meetings outdoors, players spread apart.

Teams were asked to respond with their suggested input by May 22. The protocols were written by MLB senior vice presidents Patrick Houlihan, Bryan Seeley and Chris Young, and vice president Jon Coyles. Young is a former pitcher who retired after the 2017 season.

Protocols include details on testing for team staff, who are divided into three tiers. All others may not enter clubhouses, dugouts and the field.

Seats in the empty stands near the dugout should be used to maintain distance, according to diagrams in the manual, and the next day's starting pitcher can't sit in the dugout. Everyone must keep their distance during "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America."

Fielders are "encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner" between pitches. First and third base coaches are not to approach baserunners or umpires, and players should not socialize with opponents.

Managers and coaches must wear masks while in the dugouts. The entire traveling party -- including players -- must wear personal protective equipment while on buses and flights. Restaurants are off-limits on the road, including the ones in hotels, as are hotel fitness centers.


© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. John Ramos and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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