Sunday, March 11, 2012

AutoZone Park: are ballparks sustainable?

The city of Memphis is exploring the possibility of buying their Minor League venue, AutoZone Park, which has not been the financial boon to the Memphis Redbirds baseball club that was promised. And, of course, the primary responsibility of cities nowadays is to bail out struggling sports franchises and not struggling families:

Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb, who handles most major city redevelopment efforts, described the home of the Memphis Redbirds as a "key asset" and said his main goal is to make sure the proposal is a "good value proposition" for taxpayers ....

Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation treasurer John Pontius and chairman Ray Pohlman didn't return messages Thursday. The foundation owns the team.

In December, Pontius said he had been in discussion with Fundamental Advisors, the New York firm that owns the bonds used to finance the stadium's construction, to set a sale price for potential buyers.

A message left with Fundamental Advisors was not returned Thursday night.

Lipscomb declined to go into detail about how much it would cost the city to acquire the stadium or how long he has been studying the plan ....

City Council budget committee chairman Jim Strickland said he's open to a proposal but he wants to make sure any possible deal protects the city's financial position.

"Number one, the Redbirds and AutoZone Park are very important to the city," Strickland said. "Number two, the city doesn't have any extra money. It will be really important for me to review the details to be sure the lease payments cover the debt service and that the city is not obligated for the operating expenses. I'm skeptical because, are the debt service payments guaranteed by someone? I would assume this is a multi-million dollar deal. That's an awful lot of lease payments."

These are problems to consider as Nashville is discussing building a ballpark for the Nashville Sounds baseball club. Having a ballpark is not all opportunity. The "opportunity" also sets severe limits on what is possible. Memphis looks to be caught between between a rock and a hard place. Their obligation to their community dictates that they cannot commit to a blind bail out in lean times, but their commitment to the business of baseball won't let them let the Redbirds die. When does their situation turn unenviable?

HT: James

1 comment:

  1. If this area wants a ballpark then someone should build a 5,000-seat, Single-A club in Williamson County where it's all families. Families drive minor league ball.

    I have heard that a downtown park will need to average 10,000 a game. There is no way in hell that any club will draw that in Nashville. That's crazy.