The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Slowly cleaning up the mess in Memphis

Progress is being made in improving the financials of the Memphis Redbirds while attempting to attract new events to AutoZone Park.

In case folks missed it, in August the Memphis Commercial Appeal ran an update on the ongoing sticky financial situation still tarring the feathers of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

While the defending Pacific Coast League champions continue to be competitive on the field, the balance sheet of the St. Louis Cardinals’ top affiliate has been an ongoing problem.

Attendance is basically flat this year compared to last, up an average of 75 fans on a base of over 6,600 per game. Yet, unlike in recent seasons, current expenses are being paid and some of the $2.5 million left unpaid from the past is being settled as well.

One factor this year is the downward renegotiation of payments to bond holders who funded the construction of AutoZone Park. In addition, the former management of the club was cleared out last summer in favor of a facilities management firm owned by Comcast.

The team remains for sale and while tires have been kicked, there are no offers on the table, John Pontius, treasurer of the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation, told the paper.

Another news item notes one direction the new management and the City of Memphis may be taking to increase use of the ballpark and therefore, revenues.

A proposal is being worked on now for an event of longer duration than the annual Civil Rights Game, which was held in Memphis in 2007-08, but subsequently relocated by MLB, first to Cincinnati the last two years and then to Atlanta for the 2011 and 2012 games.

AutoZone Park is one of five stated contenders to secure the post-season baseball tournament of the Southeastern Conference, or SEC. The annual event has been held in Birmingham, Alabama each May since 1998, but is approaching renewal for 2012 and the four years beyond. The Redbirds tried to win the event last time it came up for bid in 2006, as well, reports the Birmingham News.

While the Memphis facility is top-notch and has the highest seating capacity of the contenders, its biggest drawback may be its relatively western location with respect to the SEC member schools. A decision is expected by year-end.

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