Editorial: Common Sense Says Ballpark Deal is Bad

Saturday, November 23, 2013, Vol. 6, No. 48

The good news is the St. Louis Cardinals want to buy the Memphis Redbirds.

The bad news is the city of Memphis would buy AutoZone Park in the process.

And it has to be a done deal in six weeks in which the project leaps to the head of a long and growing list of requests for city money and/or the city’s full faith and credit.

There is the Crosstown project, an expansion of the Beale Street entertainment district, either an expansion of the existing Memphis Cook Convention Center or the construction of a new one, an overhaul of the Fairgrounds and the Memphis Police Department moving into the old Memphis Police station that has been unused for 30 years. And there is possibly Southbrook Mall, a renovation project the administration of Mayor A C Wharton Jr. doesn’t seem to want to say “yes” or “no” to.

We’ve said it before and we say it again. No.

All things are not possible with money from City Hall. But so far it is hard to find an instance where the city has even attempted to prioritize the projects that just about anybody is walking through the door with.

City Hall has financed two arenas and rendered three of the city’s four largest venues, including the first of the two arenas, obsolete in 25 years. Buying a ballpark shouldn’t be next on the list.

The Cardinals buying the Redbirds franchise is the only good part of this deal.

Unfortunately, it is linked to the worst part of this deal – the city buys a ballpark.

A close second is the additional amount the city would pay someone to run the ballpark.

The claim that none of this money will come from the city’s general fund should be something that every home features in needlepoint near its hearth. We’ve heard it that much.

We don’t need to find the money from a different pocket of what some see as a pair of enormous cargo pants at City Hall. We need City Hall to be engaged in finding an alternative to the city buying a ballpark to make this work. City Hall has influence as a broker.

But here we are with six weeks to do the deal and it doesn’t appear anyone ever talked about anything but the city buying the ballpark.

AutoZone Park and the Redbirds have made a contribution to the city’s life and culture beyond the brick walls of the ballpark at Third Street and Union Avenue.

But this is not a business the city government or any government should be in.

This is precisely how we continue to build things that are unsustainable. It’s called timing. And this is not the time for the city of Memphis to buy a ballpark.

This isn’t a call for austerity. It’s a call for common sense – for the city to get its fiscal house in order now.