Much has been written in recent years about the long-standing financial problems surrounding the Memphis Redbirds franchise and its state-of-the-art playing facility, AutoZone Park.
Now, the city of Memphis is considering purchasing the downtown ballpark from the not-for-profit Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. In December, the Foundation disclosed it was preparing a plan to place both the team and its home on the market and apparently recently approached the city with a proposal to sell AZP.
Considered one of, if not the best facility in minor league baseball, AutoZone opened in 2000. It came with a resulting heavy load, as its $80.5 million cost set a new record high for a minor league stadium. The combination of the high stadium debt, back tax liabilities and operating expenses out of line with declining revenues led to an untenable financial situation.
As of late last year, Fundamental Advisors LP, a private-equity firm, was owned more than $50 million in bond payments from the Foundation. The firm had spent $24 million to purchase tax-exempt bonds used to finance the ballpark after they went into default. The bonds are backed by the franchise and the stadium.
The Foundation must negotiate sale parameters acceptable to Fundamental Advisors, since the latter essentially has control of both the team and ballpark.
If the city does purchase AutoZone Park, it may make the Redbirds a more appealing target to prospective buyers as well.