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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Memphis Struggling To Allocate $350M Stadium Grant

  • City allocation of $350 million of stadium money creates growing scramble
  • University of Memphis looks to start facility upgrades amid conference realignment
Exterior of Fedex Forum in Memphis, Tennessee
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The city of Memphis envisioned a historic distribution of stadium renovation money — but that lofty plan has devolved into a growing scramble for cash involving the mayor and every major pro and college team in town.

The Tennessee General Assembly gave $350 million to Memphis in April to help renovate FedEx Forum, the home of the NBA’s Grizzlies, AutoZone Park, where the Triple-A RedBirds play, and Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, home of the University of Memphis football team. The money also is intended to help build a proposed soccer stadium that would be the permanent home of the USL Championship’s Memphis 901 FC.

Cutting Up The Pie

But specific allocations of the money, which are the responsibility of the city, have not yet been made. Now, many of the individual teams involved are publicly lining up to get their share, and maybe more — and it’s uncertain if there will be enough funds to satisfy everyone.

The University of Memphis is strongly arguing that the stadium upgrades are critical to ensure the school isn’t left out of further college conference realignment. The school is looking to start stadium renovation work in January and pushing to get some of the state money now.

“We want to not lose out on the opportunity to maximize those state allocations to really help us in the most optimal way,” said Laird Veatch, Memphis’ athletics director. 

The needs of each venue are critical due to their ages: All facilities are at least 19 years old, and Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium dates to 1965.

“These stadium renovation projects and their respective funding streams are complex, and we hope to have a resolution that everyone can be proud of in the near future,” said Memphis mayor Jim Strickland. 

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