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VOL. 128 | NO. 232 | Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sources: AutoZone Park Price ‘South of $24 Million’

By Amos Maki

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The price tag for the city of Memphis to acquire AutoZone Park would be “south of $24 million,” according to two sources familiar with the negotiations.

The price tag for the city of Memphis to acquire AutoZone Park could be as much as $24 million, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The city’s acquisition of AutoZone Park, which opened in 2000 and helped invigorate the resurgence of Downtown Memphis, will be on the City Council’s Dec. 3 agenda.

The $24 million figure is the first indication of how much the acquisition of AutoZone Park would cost the city. According to an announcement released this month, the Cardinals said the council would be asked to approve the issuance of bonds to buy the ballpark. The structure was appraised at around $32 million this summer.

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball organization said this month it had reached a tentative deal with the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation and the city of Memphis in which the Major League Baseball organization would buy the Memphis Redbirds, the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate, and the city would buy AutoZone Park.

The agreement calls on all sides to close the transaction by the end of December, according to the Cardinals organization, which also said Fundamental Advisors LP, the sole bondholder of the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation, will retire the original bonds issued by the Memphis Center City Revenue Finance Corp. in the late 1990s.

Around $57 million remains owed on the original bonds used to build the stadium, but Fundamental Advisors acquired the debt for $24 million in 2010.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. has said he wanted a deal structured so that the city would not be forced to dip into general fund revenues to purchase the stadium, which has won recognition as one of the country’s premier minor league ballparks.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the Redbirds would enter into a long-term lease agreement with the city for the ballpark at Third Street and Union Avenue. The lease payments and sales tax rebates on items bought by fans at the ballpark as well as money the city gets from payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements – the tax freezes that are used in economic development projects – would be used to pay for the bond issuance.

In addition to the AutoZone Park purchase, the council will also be asked to consider a $15 million request for the ambitious effort to redevelop the long-vacant Sears Crosstown property. City officials believe they have identified state and federal funding sources for the $15 million request.

The $175 million project would turn the hulking, 1.5 million-square-foot Sears building constructed in 1927 into a “vertical urban village” with a wide mix of uses, including arts, education and health care.

So far, project backers have received commitments for $25 million in philanthropic donations, roughly $85 million in bank financing and preliminary approval for $30 million in historic tax credits, for a total of $140 million.

Founding partners who have pledged to be tenants in the redeveloped building include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, ALSAC (the fundraising arm of St. Jude), Crosstown Arts, Gestalt Community Schools, Memphis Teacher Residency, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, the Church Health Center and Rhodes College.

A report from RKG Associates Inc. estimated the project would lead to $384 million in wages, $82 million in consumer spending and $15.6 million in sales tax revenue over a 10-year period.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 69 311 15,028
MORTGAGES 83 338 19,668
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 15 58 3,853
BUILDING PERMITS 0 512 35,842
BANKRUPTCIES 65 247 14,281
BUSINESS LICENSES 16 120 5,111
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 70 316 21,749
MARRIAGE LICENSES 18 93 4,650

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