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Decision on city takeover of AutoZone Park due today

AutoZone Park

Big day for the future of AutoZone Park, as the City Council is set to decide on a public purchase of the home of the Memphis Redbirds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League).

The proposal calls for the city to buy the ballpark for $14.5 million and allocate another $4.5 million toward future improvements. Also as part of the agreement: the St. Louis Cardinals will buy the Redbirds for an undisclosed price (we’re heard it being as low as $16 million — a bargain considering most Triple-A sale prices are usually in excess of $20 million) and then spend another $5.5 million in ballpark improvements while committing to a 17-year lease. Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation would be totally out of the baseball business. The numbers have shifted since this plan was first announced, with the city pulling back on its commitment and the Cards upping its ballpark spending. Also, as there have been some private council work sessions, the numbers presented to the council today may be different as well.

To be sure, there’s some council members dead set against any sort of purchase: the investment fund that owns the ballpark and the Cards have little in the way of leverage, as it makes no sense to move and sell the team, leaving behind an empty ballpark. And there are some on the council who are fine with the deal as long as revenues cover the investment and maybe a little more.

For what it’s worth, the CEO of AutoZone is arguing strong for the purchase, saying it’s a good business investment foe the city. Give him credit: AutoZone has pledged $100,000 annually during the remaining ten years of the naming-rights deal if revenue projections come up short.

RELATED STORIES: Decision on AutoZone Park purchase delayed by MemphisMemphis offers $20 million for AutoZone Park; city, Cards to pay $20M for upgrades; Cardinals to buy Redbirds, city to buy AutoZone Park; Redbirds still on market entering 2013; Status quo reigns in Memphis; Talk of AutoZone Park sale premature: PontiusMemphis looking at buying AutoZone Park; Weiss, Global Spectrum take full reins of Memphis Redbirds tonight


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