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Memphis approves purchase of AutoZone Park

Memphis RedbirdsThe Memphis City Council has approved the purchase of AutoZone Park, home of the Memphis Redbirds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), after agreeing to issue $24 million in bonds.

The bonds will cover both the purchase of the ballpark and improvements. The purchase of the ballpark from the facility’s bondholder, Fundamental Advisors, also clears the way for the St. Louis Cardinals to purchase the Redbirds for an undisclosed figure (we’re told $16 million) and committing the team to $5 million in ballpark improvements under a 17-year lease. The final vote on the council was 8-4, with one abstention. From the Commercial Appeal:

The bonds, to be issued by the Center City Revenue Finance Corp., would be repaid three ways: 1) $300,000 in annual rent from the Cardinals, with a possibility of another $100,000 in the event of a shortfall (and an additional $100,000 pledge from AutoZone for the first 10 years); 2) payments in lieu of taxes from the owners of the adjacent Moore Building and its parking garage; 3) state rebates on sales tax collected at the park. It’s the sales tax rebate issue that has caused most of the fuss.

City administration officials didn’t present debt repayment schedules at Tuesday’s meeting. Strickland, who was a skeptic of the sales tax rebate projections in December, said the new baseline numbers appear to allay his concerns that there could be significant shortfalls.

The Cardinals could be on the hook for as much as five years of debt service if they leave in the first five years, which represented movement from the original early exit provisions presented to the Council on Dec. 3. They would also have to pay rent for the life of the agreement.

The Cards should have control of the Redbirds in the next four to six week.

The deal marks the end of baseball for the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation, once hailed as an innovator in Minor League Baseball for its nonprofit approach to the ballpark and team.

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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