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Memphis’s Dave Chase discusses a rough offseason

In an interview with the Memphis alternative weekly, Redbirds President Dave Chase discusses the failed sale of the team to the Cardinals, the future of Memphis baseball and the poor forecast for the 2009 season.In an interview with the alternative weekly Memphis Flyer, Redbirds President Dave Chase discusses the failed sale of the team to the Cardinals, the future of the team and the poor forecast for the 2009 season.

It’s been an eventful offseason for the Memphis Redbirds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), who saw a sale of the team to the St. Louis Cardinals scrapped, forcing the management into some tough decisions about the future of the team and AutoZone Park. In the center of it all is Chase, the veteran baseball operator who built the team and the ballpark basically from nothing. Things may be a little down in Memphis, but it’s still one of the top franchises in all of baseball.

Here’s Chase on the failed sale of the team:

The Cardinals spent a significant part of last summer and fall kicking the tires down here. They made a strong commitment by extending our player development contract for four years; they recognize Memphis as an important market to sell Cardinals tickets. Of course, the economy went south, and we were unable to provide them with projections they were comfortable with going forward. Around Christmas, they notified us that they were no longer interested in buying the team, at least not as the marketplace stands now.

On the economics of the upcoming season:

These are unprecedented economic times. Baseball in general is concerned. Teams in the PCL are experiencing downturns in ticket sales anywhere from 15 to 25 percent, and we’re on the higher end on that scale now. With our 10- and 30-game plans, we’ve actually seen a modest increase in sales. Our corporate sales are down about 12 percent. But we’re seeing this across the universe of baseball. It’s not because people don’t like us or appreciate AutoZone Park. It’s just that we’re easy to cut. They’re having to make difficult decisions.

On the decision by Major League Baseball to move the annual Civil Rights Game to Cincinnati:

I’ve wrestled with it. It remains a sore point, on many levels. But I’ve taken some solace in recent weeks, because the Reds have been calling about challenges in putting on the Civil Rights Game. So I’m not removed from it; I’ve let them know I’ll do whatever I can to help them with it. At the end of the day, the game wasn’t about me, and it really wasn’t about Memphis. It was about baseball.

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