Otis Sanford: If city dollars involved, Graceland should follow the rules

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A significant legal battle is unfolding that pits one of Memphis' top tourist attractions against the city's only major league sports franchise, and the local government is caught squarely in the middle.

The issue involves the long standing non-compete agreement that the Memphis Grizzlies have with the city in exchange for managing FedEx Forum. The agreement prevents any other large venue in Memphis that receives public dollars from staging events in competition with the FedEx Forum.

That is not sitting well with Elvis Presley Enterprises - the entity that runs Graceland and its surrounding properties. EPE wants to build a 6,200- seat concert hall with public dollars in the form of tax incentives, but both the city and the Grizzlies issued a gentle reminder that the non-compete clause prevents such a thing.

Now EPE is taking the matter to court and the outcome could have major public consequences.

The non-compete agreement was a smart move by the city when FedEx Forum opened in 2004. It means the Grizzlies - not taxpayers - are responsible for financial losses, so it's only fair that the venue has exclusive rights to large entertainment events.

The people at Graceland have every right to build any size arena they want.  However, if they use taxpayer dollars to do it, they need to follow the rules.