MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Memphis will ask the state legislature for $350 million toward a $684 million plan to build or extensively renovate four professional and college sports facilities, Mayor Jim Strickland announced Tuesday.
The proposal includes improvements to the FedExForum and a new, standalone soccer stadium with 8,000-10,000 seats, which would be located where the long-vacant Mid-South Coliseum currently sits at Liberty Park.
“We think it’s a perfect site,” Strickland said “We are trying to incorporate the Coliseum itself into the current structure.”
Strickland presented his proposed legislative agenda to City Council on Tuesday, saying an investment in sports promotes the city’s image, reputation, and quality of life, and would make good business sense.
“Major professional and college sports helps a city be considered a major city,” Strickland said. “It puts us in another league.”
The proposal calls for extensive renovations at the FedExForum (home to the Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Tigers men’s basketball) and Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium (home to Memphis Tigers football and the Liberty Bowl), and a slight renovation for AutoZone Park (home to the Memphis Redbirds baseball team and 901 FC soccer team), in addition to the new soccer stadium.
Strickland said while the FedExForum looks good, it doesn’t meet today’s NBA standards. The Grizzlies are contractually obligated to stay in Memphis through 2029 — keeping them longer will mean making improvements to the existing stadium.
He told the council he expects the investment will have an economic impact on Memphis and Tennessee of more than $21 billion over 15 years, according to an analysis by Younger & Associates, the firm that produced economic impact studies for the Tennessee Titans.
The city will need to ask the state legislature to authorize an option for the City of Memphis hotel/motel tax at 5%, and extend FedExForum sales tax rebate deal through 2053 and extend a car rental tax through 2053.
The city’s request from the state comes after Nashville’s recent approval for $500 million to renovate the Tennessee Titans’ stadium.
City Council members who spoke Tuesday said they were excited about the proposal and hoped to work with city administration to make the request from the state.
“That was really exciting, especially the Coliseum part,” Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas said. “I might have to start watching sports more often.”
901 FC released a statement on the proposed new stadium for the team, saying it would contain 7,500 seats plus seats, clubs and spaces for special events and concerts.
“When we launched our football club in 2019, we had two dreams. The first was to compete at the highest level and win a USL Championship. Today, we are proud to be in the playoffs for our second consecutive season, this time as the second seed,” said Tim Howard, Sporting Director of 901 FC. “The second goal was to build a proper soccer stadium with a world class pitch for our club that rivals that of Louisville or any of the great new venues being built in the United States and Europe for soccer. Today we move closer to that dream.”