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.

5 comments

  • Hard Truths

    I’m glad the City Council is showing signs of becoming conscious.

    The people who run Memphis — and I mean the politicians AND the developers — have contempt for the public. And the feeling is mutual.

    We won’t vote for any more of the schemes they try to cram down our throats. Willie and his collaborators poisoned the well, and it’s going to stay poisoned.

    • 1midtownmike

      Indeed. If the largest investor will most likely not profit from this, it makes me wonder why AC is pushing this agenda.

      And yes. The feeling is mutual. Look at the voters who were for pre kindergarten funding but didn’t trust the hands of the those who would be handling the money.

  • Byteme

    This “deal” reeks! It sounds like the Cardinals want out, and they also want to pick the pockets of the city’s taxpayers on the way out the door. Mayor Wharton (Herrenton lite), is amped up on this deal for some odd reason. There is sooooo much more to this that hasn’t been uncovered. If the city purchases the stadium, there’s no guarantee that the Cardinals wouldn’t pull the Redbirds out the very next hour WITHOUT paying anything AND make a sizeable profit!
    if it goes through, Autozone Park will end up being yet another empty venue that Memphis will be stuck with.One of the stipulations should be that the Cardinals MUST keep the Redbirds here for at least the next 10 years while the city of Memphis benefits from the revenue generated (if any), If they want to break the contract, then the St. Louis Cardinals organization should be forced to pay $100 million dollars!
    Heck! It’s about time Memphis comes out on top for a change!

  • Thomas H. Evans

    “DELAYS” deals is a great way to put it. The Coward City Council will vote for it, just you wait and see.

  • David

    Can someone explain why this deal needs to happen in the first place ?
    Who owns the team and stadium now?
    If the team is sold what is the reason?
    Why can the new owners not use the stadium the way it is?
    If they want to draw more people why not go to the current owners and ask them for financial help?

    So the team is sold? They want to improve the park their new team plays in?
    So what sort of guarantee keeps the team here once it’s sold?
    If nothing it seems they are locked here now?
    Just keep things the way they are, what’s wrong with that?

    None of this deal makes any sense!

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