Memphis City Council Delays AutoZone Park Vote
(Memphis) The Memphis City Council decided Monday night to delay voting on whether or not to buy AutoZone Park until next Tuesday, Dec. 17.
The city council debated the proposal for nearly three hours. They were “upset with the mayor and his administration.” Many said the information for the deal was provided at the last minute.
They did vote on an amendment to reduce the cost of the stadium and capital improvements, increase the Cardinal’s exit fees and require all excess sales revenue to go towards stadium improvements.
An attorney said those amendments may not fly, because “once you negotiate a contract, you can’t come back and amend it.”
During Monday night’s meeting, Mayor A C Wharton said, “My administration is in full support of this transaction.”
Paul Morris, the president of the Downtown Development Commission, told the council that before AutoZone Park was built, that area of downtown hurt the city’s reputation in the world.
Also, an economic researcher with the University of Memphis said, “This is a good project for the city,” because buying the stadium would generate $24 million annually.
Councilman Jim Strickland said that, in the presentation to the council, they were told the revenue stream was insured and, “that is absolutely not true.”
He also said taxpayers are at risk and pointed out that the Cardinals can terminate their lease at any time and not have to pay a lot of money.
“Should we risk our precious dollars on a baseball park?” he asked.
Councilwoman Janis Fullilove said, “A full partnership would be great, but I’m not happy on a number of things.”
She added, “I thought it was insulting that all this information was pushed down our throats at the eleventh hour.”
Councilman Lee Harris asked if the Cardinals would make a profit. They would.
He then added, “We are the largest investor who expects to not make a profit off it.”
Councilman Harold Collins asked if the name would change to something like “Memphis Park.”
The answer was no. It would still be AutoZone Park. Their naming rights don’t expire for a few years.
Councilman Kemp Conrad said he doesn’t like the way this deal was handled and that the facts were “sugar-coated.”
He said to the mayor’s administration, “If this deal dies because of it, that’s your fault, not ours.”
When Councilman Myron Lowery took the floor, he asked to hear from the public.
Only one citizen was there, and he said he does not support the deal.
Strickland said he wants the purchase price reduced from $20 million to $15 million, capital improvement requests reduced and all excess funds to go to stadium improvements.
If the city council approves the deal, the County Commission would still need to vote on it and the bonds would have to be approved.
Councilman Shea Flinn recused himself, and council members Wanda Halbert, Bill Morrison, and Reid Hedgepath were not at the meeting.