VOL. 131 | NO. 19 | Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Memphis Sports Leaders to Speak on Local Impact
By Don Wade
You will find Memphis sports fans everywhere – including in the Redbirds dugout at AutoZone Park.
“Our players like having the NBA here and FedExForum nearby,” said Memphis Redbirds general manager Craig Unger.
To be sure, when the Grizzlies’ Tony Allen threw out the first pitch at a Redbirds game late this summer – a dual promotion that included Redbirds players wearing Grizzlies-themed jerseys – many of the baseball players wearing the birds on the bat were familiar with Allen’s work.
The general consensus on The Grindfather as a possible baseball player: free swinger at the plate and a run-everything-down center fielder.
Beyond the impact of players, of course, is the economic impact. Sports is big business.
Unger will be a panelist at The Daily News’ Memphis Newsmakers seminar on Thursday, Jan. 28. The seminar will be focused on the effect of local sports on the Memphis economy, with Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace delivering the keynote address. Other panelists include University of Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen and Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones.
The event starts at 3:30 p.m. and will be held at the Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Ave. The seminar includes a Q&A with the panelists, and a wine-and-cheese reception follows. Seating is limited; visit http://bit.ly/MEMnewsmakers16 for details and registration.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that over time, sports has become an ever-growing motivation for people – and yes, even companies – to choose where they locate.
“When young people look at the viability of cities and moving to cities,” Unger said, “sports is a catalyst.”
At Thursday’s seminar, expect much discussion of television’s influence. The University of Memphis, for example, has received more TV exposure since leaving Conference USA for the American Athletic Conference. Two straight winning seasons from the football team hasn’t hurt anything either.
“It’s a significant impact,” said U of M deputy athletic director Mark Alnutt. “The numbers aren’t quantifiable, but first and foremost, it’s branding. If your top two sports are doing well, it can benefit the university from a recruiting standpoint – not just student-athletes, but enrollment.”