On Friday morning, a press release was issued by a New York public relations firm to announce a “strategic agreement” for the sale of the financially-strapped Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park.
While the basic information itself has been discussed often in recent months, the timing indicates the play is nearing the goal line. Specifically, earlier this week, news of a private reception/rally planned next Tuesday at AZP became known.
The expected purpose of the event, hosted by the Memphis Redbirds Foundation, is to drum up local support for what appears to be the last open item – the City of Memphis stepping up to purchase the ballpark.
The City Council is scheduled to meet on the proposal on December 3, with the deadline to close both the sale of the stadium to the City and the team to the St. Louis Cardinals set for December 31. When the idea was initially floated, the Council’s view was characterized by some as “lukewarm”.
Here is what the proposed deal could mean for key parties.
Memphis Redbirds Foundation. After defaulting on bond payments tied to the construction of AutoZone Park, the not-for-profit group gets out from under the tangled financial mess as the defaulted ballpark bonds will be retired.
St. Louis Cardinals. The organization adds ownership of its highest-level affiliate and leases the ballpark from the City.
Fundamental Advisors. The New York-based private equity firm that specializes in distressed assets will likely turn a profit after acquiring the defaulted ballpark bonds at a discount several years ago.
Global Spectrum. Hired as a facilities manager several years ago to stem the operating losses, it is not clear if the unit of media giant Comcast will be needed once the Cardinals assume operation of the team. They were not mentioned in the press release.
City of Memphis. While the City would receive ongoing lease payments from the Cardinals that should cover maintenance and more, the burden assumed in issuing bonds to acquire AutoZone Park is what taxpayers and the City Council will surely scrutinize over the upcoming days.
Baseball fans. Memphis Redbirds fans should get to continue to enjoy Triple-A baseball for years to come.
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