Memphis in May hopes to find compromise on Tom Lee Park redesign to keep events on river

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Major changes are headed to Tom Lee Park, but right now those renovations don’t leave enough space for Memphis in May events, and the folks in charge of fixing up the park are trying to come up with a plan that works for everyone.

When Memphis River Parks Partnership released its sketches of what Tom Lee Park will become when work is finished, people oohed and aahed at the sight — but Memphis in May Marketing Director Robert Griffin noticed his group’s events might not fit within the original plan.

“It is a matter of them reviewing the stuff together and then taking it back and see, can it be worked out, because we are confident there is a compromise,” Griffin said.

A closed meeting was called Tuesday morning, and Griffin said they hoped to reach an agreement.

Rendering of the redesign of Tom Lee Park

“Our operations team is meeting with Memphis River Parks Partnership, (architects) Studio Gang … so we can show them those test fits our architect has done and see if we can’t find a way for everything to work together,” he said.

Griffin said keeping the Beale Street Music Festival and the Barbecue Fest on the river is the goal.

“It is such a unique setting to be performing on the banks of the Mississippi River with the downtown skyline behind them. It’s just a cool area,” he said.

And even more impressive than the location is the boom the events bring.

Last year Beale Street Music Festival generated an economic impact of about $60 million. Overall the Memphis in May events for the month generated an economic impact of $137.7 million.

Griffin says his team wants to see Tom Lee Park take on its best transformation while making room for them in the process.

There are some other possible downtown locations that could be considered for Memphis in May Events but right now, event coordinators are concentrated on staying put in the park.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Memphis in May and Memphis River Parks Partnership sent out a joint statement saying the groups would meet again March 18, and they feel confident they’ll find a compromise.

Park renovations are expected to be done by 2020. None of the changes would impact this year’s event.

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