MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are more questions about the future of Memphis in May and its iconic spot on the Mississippi riverfront.

In an email obtained by WREG, Memphis in May told teams in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest they are “exploring other options” for a location due to the hefty price tag for repairs the festival was given following this year’s events.

The contest returned this year in a smaller form in the newly renovated Tom Lee Park, but the return also came with a $1.4 million price tag to repair damages. Memphis River Parks Partnership, the group that manages the park, says the cost will go towards for things like concrete repair, sod replacement, and other fixes.

Memphis in May said that’s 23 times the average restoration expense and this means it has to explore other options to host the event. 

Will Hair’s team SmokeMasters BBQ has been participating in the festival for years. 

“If this kinda work needed to be done they should’ve let us know and we would’ve been more than happy to do anything we could’ve done,” Hair said.

Alex Boggs is the team captain for Sweet Cheeks BBQ. This past May, the team took first place in the shoulder division.  

“I’m nervous about the future of the festival. I think that Memphis in May and Jim Holt have done a fantastic job navigating the past few years between a pandemic, between a new location, and between a new park,” Boggs said.

Boggs said a change in venue makes him think about the festival on a larger scale.

“There are two main things that separate us from the rest of the country and that’s that we’re the biggest and that’s that we’re on the Mississippi River, and as we’ve adjusted to the new park and the new location, we have dropped in size and if we go ahead and lose the river, there’s not a lot of things that separate Memphis in May from the rest of the country,” he said.

Teams we talked to are hopeful come kind of compromise can come for the future.  

“We’ve got a history at Memphis in May, it’s a fantastic contest for us and I hate to see it going through the growing pains that it’s going through right now. Hopefully the powers that be will find an acceptable solution,” Hair said.

“I think that the city of Memphis definitely needs to get involved in this and work with Memphis in May to make sure we can get the right location and the right environment to continue to get the top barbeque teams from the entire world,” Boggs said.

Memphis River Parks Partnership said it stands by the number in the invoice. 

We reached out to Memphis in May for more information. A spokesperson said, “We have submitted a claim with our insurance carrier and will have a statement at the appropriate time.” He also would not clarify if exploring other venues was solely for barbecue festival or for the music festival as well.