SBD/January 8, 2014/Facilities

Memphis To Buy AutoZone Park, Clearing Way For MLB Cardinals To Buy Triple-A Team

The Memphis City Council and the administration of Mayor A.C. Wharton "reconciled and voted for the city to acquire AutoZone Park from Fundamental Advisors" for $19.5M, according to Michael Sheffield of the MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. The acquisition "clears the way" for the MLB Cardinals to acquire the Triple-A PCL Memphis Redbirds from Fundamental Advisors for $15M. The vote "passed by an 8-4 margin." The deal also will "include $300,000 in rent from the Cardinals, and the team has committed another $100,000 if sales tax rebates don't meet expectations, payments from owners of the Moore Building (the Toyota Center) and the parking garage, and sales tax rebates, which were a major issue for council members from the beginning." In addition, AutoZone Inc. also is "guaranteeing $100,000 to cover possible shortfalls." If the Cardinals "back out of their 17-year lease before it expires, the team could be on the hook" to pay the city $17M of the $31M in debt service on AutoZone Park. The Cardinals also would "help the city find a 'suitable replacement' tenant in the event that they do leave." Because the deal "was approved later than the Cardinals and Wharton hoped, $4.5 million in proposed improvements to AutoZone Park will not start until after the 2014 season concludes in September" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/7). In Memphis, Connolly & Veazey note supporters of the deal say that it also "calls for the expansion of inner-city baseball programs and for many youths to get free tickets to games" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 1/8).
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