MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This year’s Memphis In May annual festival is in jeopardy because the damage deposit required for Tom Lee Park would make it financially unfeasible, the festival’s president told city officials Tuesday.

Jim Holt, MIM president and CEO, said the Memphis Riverfront Parks Partnership, the private vendor that manages the city-owned property at Tom Lee Park, is demanding MIM pay a combined $1 million for damages to the park during the festival.

That is more than the amount negotiated with the help of city administration last year, and far more than the average $50,000 in damages the festival has caused to the park over the past decade, Holt said.

“We feel they are effectively attempting to shut down our festival,” Holt said.

Holt said the festival moved ahead with planning for 2023, but MRPP has refused to sign off on the terms of the festival’s lease in the park. The festival is set to begin in 83 days.

Representatives from MRPP did not speak during the discussion. The group is in charge of an ongoing $60 million renovation project to the city’s riverfront park.

But after the meeting, MRPP president and CEO Carol Coletta told WREG that it was Memphis in May that had walked away from the negotiating table after a meeting Monday.

“Why would we try to shut down the festival?” Coletta asked, after she said MRPP had committed money and delayed the project for months to accommodate Memphis in May’s festival needs.

That action demonstrated MRPP’s commitment to hosting the festival at Tom Lee Park, she said. The only issue was determining who would be responsible for damages.

Mayor Jim Strickland, speaking on WREG on Wednesday, also said Holt had walked away from negotiations.

“This is 100 percent on Memphis in May,” Strickland said. “The ball is in his court and I hope it all works out.”

Beale Street Music Festival, the largest part of MIM, attracts up to 35,000 people, Holt said. Due to park redesigns, they budgeted for only 22,000 fans this year. The barbecue contest hosts 230 teams, but this year will only be able to host 150. The festival is facing bigger up-front costs with smaller crowds expected, Holt said.

Holt said the festival would usually begin booking musical acts in July and August, but they were paralyzed until October during the negotiations.

City Council members urged the two parties to come together and get the contract for Tom Lee Park finalized as soon as possible.

“Let’s be grownups, let’s sign our contract let’s go ahead and proceed with the deal and get it done,” Councilman Jeff Warren said. “We love Memphis In May, it’s a great thing. We’re going to love this park, and they’re going to be great partners.”

Councilman Martavious Jones said he expected to have a deal done Tuesday. If an agreement couldn’t be reached by the two parties soon, he suggested he may seek to dissolve MRPP.

“The council wants this to get done by any means necessary,” Jones said. “Do not threaten the biggest driver of economic impact to this city.”

Memphis In May temporarily moved to Liberty Park in 2022 due to construction at Tom Lee Park, but the festival promised to come back to the river in 2023.

Memphis In May was forced to cancel the festival in 2020 and downsized in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Recent festivals have suffered millions in financial losses.