County Commission to Discuss Ballpark Property

By Bill Dries

Two days after Memphis City Council members again delayed approval of a deal for city ownership of AutoZone Park, Shelby County Commissioners are to discuss the county’s part of the arrangement in their committee sessions.

The Shelby County Commission is weighing in on the AutoZone Park transaction at a Wednesday committee meeting.

(Daily News File/Brandon Dill)

Resolving the county’s role comes away from the brighter and hotter political spotlight that has focused on the terms of the city buying the ballpark from an equity firm. The proposed deal includes the St. Louis Cardinals buying the Memphis Redbirds franchise that plays at the ballpark.

The city wouldn’t buy the county’s share of the land the ballpark stands on. The county would instead “relinquish whatever interest” it has in the property, according to a summary sheet on the resolution scheduled for discussion Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 9:35 a.m.

Shelby County and Memphis city governments each paid half of the $8.5 million in 1998 to acquire the land the ballpark was built on at the northeast corner of Third Street and Union Avenue.

Under terms of the interlocal agreement that followed, the county did not take title to the land, but gets half of any available profit from the ballpark. So far, there hasn’t been any profit.

The dominant feature of the arrangement, which commissioners discuss Wednesday and vote on Monday, Dec. 16, is reassigning an annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement of $462,000 the county gets from the William R. Moore building and the adjoining parking garage. The payment would go toward paying the new debt service on the proposed bonds the city would use to finance its purchase of the ballpark and a share of the cost of capital improvements. The PILOT payments now go to pay debt service on the original ballpark bonds and the payments were recently extended to go from 2014 to 2029.

“The net effect and financial impact of this transaction on the county is neutral,” reads the summary from the county administration, which also notes that the PILOT payments cannot be diverted for any use other than debt service.