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VOL. 126 | NO. 65 | Monday, April 4, 2011

America’s Pastime has Place in Memphis

The Memphis News

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A year ago, the Memphis Redbirds were searching for an owner.

Plans by the St. Louis Cardinals to buy the AAA farm club team had fallen through with the onslaught of the recession and the Redbirds’ unique ownership structure clearly wasn’t built to last much longer.

Crisis management had set in, and baseball box office arguably fares worse with such management than any other professional sporting venture.

A year later, the Redbirds are still for sale. But as our cover story makes clear the franchise is on more solid financial footing and there is more of a long-term strategy for an institution vital to Memphis.

More importantly we hope there will be a renewed attention to detail that has made game days at AutoZone Park so special for Memphians on an individual basis.

Baseball is a sport in which the roles of the team and the individual are in sharp contrast even as they overlap. That translates to how the sport is experienced by those in the stands. Atmosphere is so important, especially with minor league teams because of the changing line ups and movement to and from the majors.

Eleven years have come and gone at AutoZone Park quicker than many of us realized. And in that time is a lesson about growth. Most of the time when community leaders talk about growth, it is about growing the local economy or growing more jobs.

Our civic endeavors need more of that kind of growth planning.

Because the park is Downtown, its sense of place is different than a ballpark built with a premium on lots of open land.

That’s why the continued upkeep of the AutoZone Park and the game experience are so critical to the future of the Redbirds franchise in Memphis.

What happens at AutoZone Park is a game. But what the team and the ballpark mean to Memphis is not a game. It is a part of the quality of life.

That means when visitors from 10 years ago come to the ballpark they should have something close to the experience of that first year when it was a new venue, AutoZone Park upgrades notwithstanding.

The park and the franchise have been built on a foundation in which the family experience is a cornerstone.

That cornerstone should remain so that the children who came in that inaugural season Downtown can come with their children some day and build a tradition.

Baseball is a box office business. And minor league teams across the country have learned to build their box offices with attractions other than what is happening on the field. But the game and the park are the core of the experience.

Keeping that balance is hard work requiring vigilance.

PROPERTY SALES 41 308 2,265
MORTGAGES 47 379 2,607
BUILDING PERMITS 128 1,018 6,068
BANKRUPTCIES 53 255 1,787