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VOL. 8 | NO. 22 | Saturday, May 23, 2015

Daily Digest

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Council Approves Brewery Parking Garage Loan

Memphis City Council members gave the green light Tuesday, May 19, to a $5.1 million loan for the Downtown Parking Authority to build a 339-space parking garage on Tennessee Street across from the Tennessee Brewery.

The brewery’s new owners are pursuing the financing as part of the their plan to convert the building and surrounding area into a mixed-use development.

The loan does not involve city funding. The money would come from the Center City Revenue Finance Corp.’s PILOT extension fund.

The council action came the day before the Downtown Parking Authority board was to meet to vote on the loan. The authority, part of the Downtown Memphis Commission, is a state-chartered organization that governs and manages public parking, sets policies and issues revenue bonds. It manages eight public parking garages in the Downtown area.

– Bill Dries

Council Impasse Panel OKs 3 Percent Police Pay Hike

A panel of three Memphis City Council members meeting Thursday, May 21, unanimously approved a 3 percent pay raise for Memphis police officers in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The council impasse committee approved the last best offer of the Memphis Police Association over the last best offer of the administration of Mayor A C Wharton Jr., which was for no pay raise.

Each side in the dispute made its case to the committee chaired by council member Wanda Halbert and including council members Reid Hedgepeth and Bill Morrison.

The agreement is for two years with a wage reopener clause in the second year.

The impasse committee’s decision is reported to the full council and becomes final unless the council specifically votes to veto it.

The union and the administration differed even on the impact of the pay raise on the still-forming city budget for the new fiscal year.

The union estimated it adds $3 million to the city’s operating budget. The administration estimated it at $5.8 million.

Memphis Police Association attorney Deborah Godwin also referred to the pay hike as “an adjustment in the pay grade and the base wage rate in order to be competitive for recruitment and retention.”

– Bill Dries

AutoZone Park Ranked No. 2 in Minor Leagues

When AutoZone Park opened in 2000, with an exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals, it was the undisputed best ballpark below the major leagues. Before the first pitch was ever thrown, everyone from then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to then-beloved slugger Mark McGwire raved about the gorgeous new ballpark at Third Street and Union Avenue.

But now, 15 years later, Baseball America is here to report that AutoZone Park remains among the elite. The national publication listed AZP second on its list of the Best Ballparks in the Minors, and No. 1 in the Pacific Coast League, after surveying more than 100 minor league general managers, radio announcers, league observers, and others involved in the game to help create a top 25 ranking.

“We’re proud that AutoZone Park continues to be recognized as a premier minor league destination for baseball fans,” said Redbirds general manager Craig Unger.

AutoZone Park recently underwent a $6.5 million offseason renovation that added significant state-of-the-art features and fan-friendly amenities. Enhancements included LED ribbon boards; a left field video wall; two new TruGreen “Bluffs” inside the main seating bowl; a destination bar in left field; an expanded Home Plate Club; the addition of four-top table seating; the stadium’s first all-inclusive Redbird Club; and a playing field replacement.

The Triple-A Charlotte Knights’ stadium, BB&T Ballpark, finished No. 1 on the list and opened in 2014. Regions Field in Birmingham, Ala., the Double-A park of the Barons, came in third and also opened in 2014.

– Don Wade

Conn’s HomePlus Opens New Memphis Store

A second Conn’s HomePlus store in Memphis is now open.

The new, more than 50,000-square-foot store at 3260 Austin Peay Highway sells affordable home appliances, consumer electronics, home office products, furniture and mattresses.

The first Conn’s HomePlus store opened in Memphis in 2014. The new Memphis store created 28 new jobs, and Conn’s plans to hire still more staff. It estimates it will hire as many as 50 workers in Memphis by the fall.

– Andy Meek

Memphis Airport Authority Names New Chairman

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority has found a new chairman to lead the organization through what is arguably its most important period of change in decades.

Hotel company operator Pace Cooper is replacing Jack Sammons as chairman of the authority’s seven-member board.

Sammons, a gregarious salesman for Memphis International Airport, left the post to serve as Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s new chief administrative officer.

“I think this job is extremely important and important to the future of Memphis,” Cooper said.

The new chairman, just the fifth in the Airport Authority’s history, takes the reins of power as Memphis International transitions to an origin-and-destination facility following the loss of the Delta Air Lines Inc. hub.

The new chairman will be tasked with making Memphis International the airport of choice for regional travelers, including many who have driven to Nashville or Little Rock to take advantage of perceived lower fares.

But with Delta’s grip on the airport loosened, it paves the way for low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air to enter the Memphis market.

The presence of these carriers has helped drive down air travel prices, according to federal figures.

Cooper beat out local businessman J.W. Gibson II for the chairman’s post. Cooper received five votes, and Gibson cast the lone vote on his behalf.

– Amos Maki

FedEx to Sponsor UEFA Europa League Soccer

FedEx said Friday that it signed a deal to sponsor a major European soccer league as it seeks to expand its presence in the region.

The Memphis-based package delivery company says it will be the main sponsor of the UEFA Europa League. Its sponsorship will start this year and extend three years into 2018.

FedEx did not disclose how much it was paying. The FedEx logo will be seen in stadiums and incorporated in other ways.

– The Associated Press

Oak Park Apartments to Be Demolished

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and other city leaders will announce Friday, May 22, the demolition of the long-vacant Oak Park Apartments at 1221 S. Willett St.

The 100-unit apartment complex was built in 1967 and is owned by Martin Family Rentals LLC, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, according to the Shelby County Assessor’s office records.

The company bought it in 2011 for $420,927 from Lighthouse Capital Funding Inc.

The project is part of Wharton’s effort to demolish blighted properties across the city.

– Bill Dries

University of Memphis Gets 'Green' Nod From Princeton Review

The University of Memphis’ green initiatives, including its bike share program and single-stream recycling effort, have earned the school a nod from The Princeton Review.

The education services company has named the U of M as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada. It reviewed 2,000 colleges and their green initiatives before developing The Princeton Review’s Guide to 353 Green Colleges.

The Tiger Bike Share Program is one of the university’s green programs, which features a fleet of 80 bicycles for rent by students, faculty and staff. There also are six bottle refill hydration stations throughout campus.

U of M’s on-campus recycling have grown quickly. Started in 2009 with a total of 150,000 pounds, recycling collections should surpass 1 million pounds this year.

“To know that our campus is relatively new to the sustainability scene and we are already a leader in so many areas is truly amazing,” said Amelia Mayahi, U of M’s sustainability coordinator.

– Daily News staff

Memphis Health Center Awarded $3.7 Million

The federal agency has awarded a $3.7 million grant to the Memphis Health Center, which provides affordable health care services to Shelby County residents.

The grant comes from Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Memphis Health Center provides an array of primary and preventative health and dental services to the uninsured and underinsured as well as medically underserved populations in Memphis as well as in Shelby and Fayette counties.

It was founded more than 45 years ago to address concerns over health care access disparities.

– Andy Meek

Stoudamire to Return to Memphis Tigers Bench

Damon Stoudamire is set to return to the University of Memphis basketball coaching staff.

Stoudamire – a former NBA player who both played and coached for the Memphis Grizzlies – served as an assistant coach for the Tigers from 2011-13. He will return to the Tigers basketball bench in a similar role pending approval by the Tennessee Board of Regents, head coach Josh Pastner announced.

Stoudamire replaces three-year assistant Aki Collins. A statement from the U of M said Collins was leaving “to pursue other opportunities.”

“I want to say thank you to Aki Collins for the outstanding job he’s done for us the past three years,” Pastner said in that university statement.

Stoudamire spent the last two seasons on the University of Arizona basketball staff. During that time, the Wildcats posted consecutive 30-win seasons and made back-to-back NCAA Elite Eight appearances.

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley credited Stoudamire with helping him improve his game.

“That’s gonna be huge, man,” Conley said of the effect he can have on the Tigers’ guards. “He’s been a big influence on me. I was hoping he was coming back here, to the Grizzlies. But having him in the city will be great. I can pick his brain.”

Pastner expects Stoudamire to provide a recruiting boost and “make an immediate impact on our guard play and perimeter defenses.”

In his two seasons on the Memphis sidelines, the Tigers compiled a 57-14 record and made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Before joining the Tigers staff, Stoudamire served as an assistant coach for the Grizzlies from 2009-11.

Nicknamed “Mighty Mouse,” Stoudamire was the seventh overall selection in the 1995 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. He played 13 seasons in the league (1995-2008) for Toronto, Portland, Memphis and San Antonio.

– Don Wade

Summer Skies: Airlines to Fly Record Numbers

A record number of travelers are expected to take to the skies this summer thanks to a rebounding economy.

U.S. airlines will carry 222 million passengers between June 1 and Aug. 31, topping the summer of 2007 when 217.6 million people flew, Airlines for America, the industry’s trade and lobbying group, predicted Monday. That figure includes 31 million travelers on international flights, also a record.

On average, there will be 2.4 million passengers a day, 4.5 percent more than last summer.

After several years of limiting their expansion, U.S. airlines are now quickly adding more seats, including 4.6 percent more this summer. Those added seats are mostly the result of airlines flying larger planes and packing in extra rows to existing jets.

Those extra seats have given pause to some Wall Street analysts who worry that airlines might have to discount fares to fill them. That hasn’t happened yet, but after years of steadily rising airfares, there is a tiny bit of relief for fliers this summer – $2.01 in savings to be exact.

The average roundtrip domestic ticket this summer, including taxes, now stands at $454, down less than a percent from last summer.

– The Associated Press

Indie Memphis Confirms Film Festival Dates

This year’s Indie Memphis Film Festival will run from Nov. 3 to Nov. 10, the organization announced this week.

The investment firm Duncan-Williams Inc. also is back as presenting sponsor of the festival for a fifth year, with the organization attributing its growth and success in part to the firm’s support.

The festival also is looking for an executive director. It has launched a national search following the retirement in February of Erik Jambor, who held the position at Indie Memphis for seven years.

– Andy Meek

Wren Baker Leaving Memphis for Missouri Athletics Job

Deputy athletics director Wren Baker is leaving the University of Memphis.

Baker, who shaped the athletics department’s external operations and played a significant role in U of M setting records for total private financial support to the department during two-plus years in the position, has accepted a similar job at the University of Missouri.

“I am eternally grateful to Tom Bowen for giving me the opportunity to join the Memphis Tiger family,” said Baker, who will become Missouri’s deputy athletic director on June 8. “It has been a tremendous experience.”

At Memphis, Baker assisted in securing the largest donation in Memphis athletics history and in the launch of the department’s $40 million “Time to Shine” capital campaign. He spearheaded a development team that accumulated six commitments of $1 million or more during the past two years. During Baker’s tenure, the Tiger Scholarship Fund also attracted 300 new members.

“Wren has exceeded all the professional expectations I had when he was hired as the department’s deputy athletic director in February of 2013,” said Memphis director of athletics Tom Bowen.

During his tenure at Memphis, Baker completed a reorganization of the department’s external relations component and aided in the reorganization of the entire athletics department.

With Baker’s oversight, Memphis increased revenue in football ticket sales, annual fund support, major gifts and multi-media rights. Memphis has sold a record number of suites at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium over the last two years.

– Don Wade

Benefit for Children’s Heart Foundation on June 6

Taste of Caribe returns for the 11th year on Saturday, June 6, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at ANF Architects located at 1500 Union Ave. in Downtown Memphis.

This night of Caribbean food, music and dancing will benefit International Children’s Heart Foundation, a Memphis-based nonprofit dedicated to curing and caring for children with congenital heart disease in developing countries across the globe.

ICHF will also welcome Jesser Solis-Contreras, an ICHF ambassador from New York, as a speaker at the event. Now 28, Solis-Contreras was brought as a child to New York from Nicaragua through the support of a local Rotary Club to receive life-saving Tetralogy of Fallot surgery. He discovered ICHF later in life and now supports the organization through fundraising and spreading awareness about congenital heart defects, the most common birth defect in the world.

The event will also feature fresh hand-rolled cigars, Bacardi drinks and Caribbean-style roasted suckling pork. General admission tickets are $50 per person and include Caribbean food and entertainment. VIP tickets are $150 and include a VIP gift bag and a bar wristband for the night.

To purchase tickets, visit www.babyheart.org.

Key sponsors of Taste of Caribe are ANF Architects, Bacardi and Havana Mix Cigar Emporium.

– Don Wade

B.B. King to Be Buried Next Week in Mississippi Delta

The body of blues legend B.B. King will return next week to the Mississippi Delta where his life and career began.

His body will be flown on Wednesday to Memphis, the place where a young King was nicknamed the Beale Street Blues Boy. It is expected to arrive at the airport at about noon, and will be driven in a procession to Handy Park on Beale Street, where a tribute will be held that day.

After that, King’s body will be driven to Indianola, Miss., which King considered his hometown.

A public viewing will be from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 29 at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, and the funeral will be at 11 a.m. May 30 at the nearby Bell Grove Missionary Baptist Church, the museum announced Wednesday. The 15-time Grammy winner will be buried later that day in a private ceremony at the museum, which King helped develop.

– The Associated Press

Grizzlies' Allen Earns NBA 'First-Team All-Defense'

Before his hamstring injury flared up in the series against Golden State, Tony Allen shouted “first-team all-defense” as a television network microphone made his declaration audible to the free world.

Now, the pronouncement has come true. The Grizzlies’ veteran has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the 2014-15 season, the NBA announced. This marks the fourth career All-Defensive selection for Allen, who previously received First Team honors in 2012-13 and 2011-12 and a Second Team nod in 2010-11.

Allen (6-4, 213) averaged 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.05 steals in 26.2 minutes in 63 games (41 starts) for Memphis this season. The 33-year-old led the NBA in steals per 48 minutes (3.8), steal percentage (4.1) and defensive rating (94.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) among players with a minimum of 1,500 total minutes played. The Grizzlies’ defensive rating was 8.7 points better with Allen on the floor (94.9) than with him off the floor (103.6). In addition, Allen ranked third in the league in steals per game, setting a new career high and leading the team in the category.

As a team, Memphis ranked second in the NBA in points allowed per game (95.1), and finished fourth in the league in defensive rating (99.9). Memphis held 55 opponents under 100 points this season, the most in the NBA, and went 44-11 in those contests.

Joining Allen (207 points) on the NBA All-Defensive First Team are San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (242 points), Golden State’s Draymond Green (229 points) and the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan (187 points) and Chris Paul (170 points).

– Don Wade

Tennessee Among States to Settle in RadioShack Case

The new owner of RadioShack will not get all of the customer data compiled by the electronics retailer before its sale in bankruptcy proceedings.

Tennessee is one of 38 states that reached a settlement agreement with buyer General Wireless and had a leading role in the coalition effort.

The customer data from RadioShack, which includes 8.5 million customer email addresses, was among the assets General Wireless bought as well as e-commerce business and intellectual property.

The settlement allows General Wireless to retain email addresses for customers who sought product information in the last two years. And the company cannot sell or share the customer information in the future with any other entity. That applies to its business partner, Sprint Communications.

– Bill Dries

Tennessee Family Accused of Cancer Donation Fraud

A Tennessee man and his family used much of the $187 million it collected for cancer patients to buy themselves cars, gym memberships and take luxury cruise vacations, pay for college tuition and employ family members with six-figure salaries, federal officials alleged Tuesday in one of the largest charity fraud cases ever, involving all 50 states.

The joint action by the Federal Trade Commission and the states says James T. Reynolds Sr., his ex-wife and son raised the money through their various family-run charities: The Cancer Fund of America in Knoxville, and its affiliated Cancer Support Services; The Breast Cancer Society in Mesa, Arizona; and the Children’s Cancer Fund of America in Powell, Tennessee.

The charities billed themselves as offering financial aid and other support to cancer patients, including hospice care.

But little money made it to cancer patients, as the groups “operated as personal fiefdoms characterized by rampant nepotism, flagrant conflicts of interest, and excessive insider compensation” with none of the controls used by bona fide charities, the FTC said Tuesday.

Officials hailed the enforcement action as a warning sign to charity scams. But under settlement agreements with Reynolds’ son, ex-wife and a long-time associate of the family – Kyle Effler – that bans the three from fundraising and shuttered their organizations, little of the money could be recouped because it’s already been spent. Litigation against Reynolds Sr. and Cancer Fund of America is ongoing.

– The Associated Press

Methodist North Gets New Development Official

Methodist North Hospital has a new program director of community development.

Ashante Hodges will be responsible for helping expand Methodist North’s service area and the coordination of community outreach activities, among other things.

Her employment experience includes marketing and communications responsibilities at Baptist Memorial Hospital, FedEx, Time Warner/Comcast Cable and production work at the WREG and WMC-TV stations.

– Andy Meek

Memphis in May Names Barbecue Contest Winners

The Shed BBQ took home top honors in the 2015 Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

The Shed, from Ocean Springs, Miss., won first place in the whole hog division and was named Grand Champion. It earned $29,000 in prize money.

Other category winners included Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q from Decatur, Ala., which won first place in the shoulder division and Serial Grillers from Memphis which won first place in the rib division. Both Big Bob Gibson and Serial Grillers took home $8,500 for their first-places finishes.

Salty Rinse BBQ from New York won second place in whole hog while Cotton Patch Cooking Team from Columbus, Miss., took third. In shoulder, Sweet Swine O’Mine and Red Hot Smokers, both from Olive Branch, Miss., finished second and third, respectively.

Auto Be Grillin’ from Memphis won second place in the rib category while Cackle & Oink BBQ from Sherman, Texas, took third.

Team Canada BBQ, from London, Ontario, Canada, won the Green Grilling award, given to the team that collected the most recyclables.

– Daily News staff

Boys & Girls Clubs of Memphis Officials Honored

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis’ CEO and its career placement director picked up awards during the recent Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 109th National Conference in Chicago.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America president Jim Clark gave the Merit Award for Program Excellence in Health and Life Skills to Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis CEO Keith Blanchard as well as to career placement director Tiffanie Grier.

Merit Awards for Program Excellence, sponsored by the MetLife Foundation, are presented annually for outstanding programs developed to lead young people to better futures at Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.

– Andy Meek

FedEx St. Jude Classic Gets Two Top-Tier Commits

The FedEx St. Jude Classic field is getting deeper. Reigning FedExCup champion Billy Horschel and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson have committed to play in the tournament at TPC Southwind, June 8-14. They join a field for the $6 million event that already includes fan favorite Phil Mickelson and 2012 FESJC champ Dustin Johnson.

Horschel stormed to the FedExCup championship last year with one of the best season-ending finishes in PGA Tour history. The former University of Florida standout tied for second at the Deutsche Bank Championship and won two other tournaments. Simpson, a former collegiate star at Wake Forest, won twice on tour in 2011 and became a major championship winner at the U.S. Open in 2012.

Horschel currently ranks 19th in the Official World Golf Rankings and Simpson is 36th. Horschel made his PGA Tour debut at the FESJC in 2009 and has missed only one Memphis event since. This will be the fifth FESJC for Simpson.

“Billy and Webb both received sponsor exemptions from us right out of college, so we continue to reap rewards from those decisions,” said Phil Cannon, FESJC tournament director.

– Don Wade

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