(Memphis) The Memphis Redbirds are one of the last nonprofit professional sports teams, but not for much longer.
The St. Louis Cardinals have reached a deal to purchase the Memphis Redbirds from the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation.
The foundation has been operating at a loss and defaulted on a required bond payment in 2010.
"The Cardinals have acquired our Triple-A affiliate Memphis Redbirds. "The Redbirds represent the best of minor league baseball. This opens the door to countless new opportunities for our combined organization, and we are thrilled about the prospects for baseball fans in both of our great cities.” - William DeWitt Jr., Chairman and CEO of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The agreement calls for the St. Louis Cardinals (“Cardinals”) to acquire the Memphis Redbirds and the City of Memphis to acquire AutoZone Park.
The City would then lease the ballpark to the Redbirds through a long-term lease agreement.
The agreement reportedly includes a large financial investment into improvements at the park.
It is not clear how much this will cost Memphis taxpayers and many detractors question the city getting into the ballpark business.
Mayor A C Wharton, who couldn't give a ball park figure for how much it may cost, said the news threw him for a curve.
“It's a bit premature because I have not received a contract. Not even a draft quite frankly,” said Wharton.
Councilwoman Wanda Halbert balked at the mayor's claim not to know anything.
“I would be very surprised why the Cardinals or the Redbirds would come out and talk about this kind of venture without someone in city government knowing about it,” said Halbert.
She said if there is a deal in the works council is being left in the dugout.
“I have not heard anything other than what's been on television so the mayor has not stared the details of what that is. I'm a little disappointed,” said Halbert.
They mayor says talks have been going on for a long time but he wants to determine how it would financially impact the entire city before making a definite decision.
The Memphis City Council must approve the deal by December 31.