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VOL. 131 | NO. 96 | Friday, May 13, 2016

RVC Outdoors Seeks Strickland’s Commitment

By Madeline Faber

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Andy Cates, CEO of Memphis-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, said his redevelopment plan for Mud Island won’t require significant public dollars, but he’s looking for a commitment from the city to move forward.


The subject came up last week during a taping of the WKNO/Channel 10 program Behind The Headlines when Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland was asked about pursuing such large projects in an administration he has vowed will be “brilliant at the basics.”

“I never said we’d never do it. I just said in this budget I did not see any big new projects,” Strickland said. “Like Mud Island – I have not reviewed either of the proposals. But I’m really not in favor of using city money there. I’m looking for somebody to do a private thing there that we just lease the space for and let them go.”

In a later conversation with The Daily News, Cates said he needs a basic commitment from the city to move forward with his business plan.


“We’re not asking for new city funding. We’re asking about the $1.5 million the city already spends on Mud Island,” Cates said, referring to the operating funds set aside for Mud Island in the fiscal year 2017 budget, which the Memphis City Council will likely vote on June 7.

“What we’re really asking for is, we want to gauge if he thinks this is an important enough priority to spend time on this for next year’s budget. We’re not talking about this year’s budget,” Cates added.

A Riverfront Development Corp. committee is seeking more detailed financial information from two finalists for the job of redeveloping the park – RVC Outdoors and Mansion Entertainment and Media LLC of Branson, Mo.

Mansion is only interested in improving and running the amphitheater, while RVC has a park-wide plan that includes upgrading the River Walk scale model and the amphitheater as well as adding riverside cabins and safari tents for guests. Under the RVC plan, the park’s main entrance would be reoriented to the northern gate, and the Greenbelt Park north of the river park would be extended westward all the way to the southern tip of Mud Island.

A committee reviewing those proposals could recommend one or the other, or both, at which point the Strickland administration becomes involved directly in talks for a contract agreement.

In his proposal to the RDC and interviews with The Daily News, Cates has said some public funding would likely be required, but that RVC has up to $10 million in capital available to invest in the larger private part of the redevelopment.

“I would argue that Mud Island is part of brilliant at the basics, because already the city is losing $1.5 million dollars every year on Mud Island,” Cates said. “But it also gets to the point where, if you’re going to have a public-private partnership, you have to have a private party be a part of that. So we just don’t want to be taken for granted. We want to make sure he thinks this is a priority.”

Reporter Bill Dries contributed to this article.

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