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Futures of Memphis Redbirds, AutoZone Park hang in the balance

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There is discussion that the city might buy AutoZone Park, then sell it to the St. Louis Cardinals. City leaders are rallying to find support to make it happen. There is discussion that the city might buy AutoZone Park, then sell it to the St. Louis Cardinals. City leaders are rallying to find support to make it happen.
An invitation-only rally has been scheduled to build support from the business community for a sale of the Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park. An invitation-only rally has been scheduled to build support from the business community for a sale of the Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) – The futures of the Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park are back in the spotlight.

There is discussion that the city might buy the park, then sell it to the St. Louis Cardinals. City leaders are rallying to find support to make it happen.

An invitation-only rally has been scheduled to build support from the business community for a sale of the Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park.

Like many Redbirds fans, Bob Phillips remembers when the team first came to Memphis.

"I do remember when it was packed," said Bob Phillips. "We were just talking at lunch about how the Redbirds and the ballpark helped really bring people back downtown."

But over the years, crowds became less and less. Amidst that, there has always been discussion about the team and stadium's ownership situation. That is why there is no surprise that city leaders may be one step closer to a new idea.

"It's not my thinking, it's the Redbirds organization and the Cardinals quite frankly," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. "They see that ballpark as a real gem, they want it to continue being a critical asset. We're dedicated to keeping it a vibrant part of the downtown area."

Next Tuesday, an invitation-only rally will reveal much more about the possible shift in ownership.

Mayor A C Wharton would not say much about the details, but there is reportedly a proposed three-party deal.

First, the city would issue bonds to buy the stadium and the team. Then, the St. Louis Cardinals would purchase AutoZone Park and the Memphis Redbirds.

But the plan is not set in stole. And people some are raising questions.

"I don't think the city needs to be running ballparks or stadiums," said Phillips. "The FedExForum is a great example of what can be done when you have private people running things."

The mayor says the sale could provide a source of revenue for the entire city, not just the downtown area, through PILOTS, or payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, sales tax rebates and the lease the Cardinals would pay for the stadium.

"I've talked to the Cardinals ownership, they see something in that team that perhaps we haven't seen," said Wharton. "Sometimes you get too close to the forest and can't see the trees."

Tuesday's event is aimed at building civic and corporate support for the project. The administration hopes to present the plan to the Memphis City Council in the first week in December.

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