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VOL. 131 | NO. 44 | Wednesday, March 2, 2016

RVC, Mansion to Give More Specifics on Mud Island Plans

By Bill Dries

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The CEO of RVC Outdoor Destinations of Memphis says his company is “ready to invest $10 million of our own capital that is currently available and ready to deploy.”


Andy Cates made the assurance in the company’s proposal to the Riverfront Development Corp. that was one of the two finalists picked Monday, Feb. 29, by an RDC committee.

The other finalist is Mansion Entertainment and Media LLC of Branson, Mo., whose proposal is to manage the park’s amphitheater only.

And its application made clear that it wants to be aware of what else is happening in the park and reserves the right to withdraw if the other part of the park’s redevelopment “would be a disadvantage to the amphitheater operations or the venue’s ability to serve its customers or market its concerts. It will be necessary for our company officials to be made aware of all possible surrounding developments that might be chosen to be included in the Mud Island redevelopment,” Mansion’s written proposal reads.

Both firms will meet with the RDC working group in the next 10 days.


Both “have been chomping at the bit” to talk in more detail about their proposals RDC president Benny Lendermon said.

“How much money, where is the money coming from, what are they expecting from the city – is it significant dollars, is it insignificant dollars?” Lendermon said as he reviewed the questions likely to be asked. “We’ve got to flesh that out.”

Kevin Kane, chairman of the committee and president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the RVC and Mansion proposals were “particularly strong.”

“Of the four, these two proposals were significantly more well-developed conceptually and offered the most financial detail,” he added, in a written statement.

Lendermon said the working group could recommend neither of the two, one of the two or some kind of partnership.

“I can’t speak to either one of them, but either one of them could include other partners,” he said. “I don’t see us ever forcing them into that. That’s something they control, not us.”

Bass Pro Shops executives had expressed an interest in the park’s redevelopment earlier, but did not submit a specific proposal including financing by the Feb. 24 deadline.

The Pyramid where Bass Pro Shops opened its largest store with other attractions in May 2015 is across the Wolf River Harbor from Mud Island River Park.

“My last real communication with them was when I gave them and a partner they had out of Nashville a tour of the island back when this process first started,” Lendermon said. “They never came back and asked for any additional information.”

Cates has said that he talked with Bass Pro Shops executives about his plan and they expressed a willingness to work with him as the plan takes a more specific shape.

RVC Outdoor submitted a park-wide plan that included keeping the River Walk scale model and the amphitheater and upgrading them as well as adding riverside cabins and safari tents for guests. The park’s main entrance would be reoriented to the northern gate and the Greenbelt Park north of the river park would be extended along the western edge of the river park all the way to the southern tip of Mud Island.

Cates has also proposed abandoning the park’s monorail crossing and turning the walkway above it into a pedestrian and bicycle way similar to Manhattan’s High Line development.

Mansion Entertainment and Media proposed an upgrade and operation of the park’s amphitheater only, based on its experience managing similar venues in Branson and other entertainment districts across the country.

The Mansion proposal details a 10-year lease with 10 annual renewals beyond that, a minimum of four concerts a year and beer sales at concerts.

ML Professional Properties also had a park-wide plan that relied heavily on links to other developers, with the company willing to “add more entities as needed.” MLPP said it has its own funds as well as financial backing from other entities to fully execute its proposed project. The company is headed by Mark Lovell, who created the Delta Fair and operates similar fairs and expos across the country.

Memphis Equity proposed a 500-room, resort-type hotel and spa in the center of the existing park with others developing the rest of the park.

The group’s proposal put the cost of the resort-spa at $125 million with Memphis Equity putting up $15 million in equity and the rest to come from revenue bonds, a tax increment financing zone, payment in lieu of tax agreements and other tax revenue.

Once those government incentives and instruments were approved, Memphis Equity investors would “come forward … to fund these and other start-up expenses,” according to its plan.

Lendermon said there is no date set to have a recommendation from the RDC that goes to Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration which will work with the RDC on negotiating a contract.

“It could well be that something comes out in the interviews that begs to be explored further before we make a decision,” he said. “Our desire would be to know what there is to know and move on.”

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