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VOL. 132 | NO. 20 | Friday, January 27, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: The Business of Local Sports, Garrison Leaves MATA and Broadband

By Bill Dries

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Marc Gasol makes the NBA’s Western Conference All Star team as a reserve, the first player in the history of the Grizz to make the All-Star Game three times.

Grizz business operations president Jason Wexler asked about Memphis hosting an NBA All-Star Game one of these days at The Daily News Sports Seminar Thursday at the Brooks. Wexler saying the city doesn’t have enough hotel rooms – the same barrier to drawing bigger conventions and meetings to the city.

Other observations from the Newsmakers panel discussion:

Tigers Athletic Director Tom Bowen says look for lots of litigation in the near future over the amateur status of athletes.

Redbirds GM Craig Unger says the baseball franchise here is in the entertainment business and its competition is movies and television.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart says expect the SEC to continue examining how it determines which of its teams play in what bowl. He also talked about how different the annual football classic was in the mid -1980s and how different the city’s sports scene was with the pursuit of an NFL franchise being a priority.

And Wexler says younger Grizz fans don’t watch that much on television, so media rights in those other venues for content remain on open issue.

Our next seminar is the Women and Business session in February at the Brooks.

When you talk about a “turn-around” effort in Memphis, the immediate association is schools.

But the closest competitor in local turn-around work is the city’s bus system – the Memphis Area Transit Authority. And after about two-and-a-half years starting and scaling up the turnaround of MATA, Ron Garrison suddenly turned in his resignation Thursday for health reasons.

From the moment Garrison arrived here, he had his hands full with a transportation system whose routes seemed designed to purposely do everything but go in a straight line. He had to completely shut down the trolley system because several trolleys burst into flames. Then he discovered there was no system for maintenance of the trolleys let alone training for those working on the trolleys.

He started with most of the team that had been in place at MATA for decades. But over time was starting to turn over that staff.

One of the folks he brought in, Gary Rosenfeld, becomes the interim leader of MATA and will likely apply for the job in the upcoming national job search.

A word about how this was done. The MATA board called an emergency meeting on very short notice Thursday and the meeting was in the mayor’s conference room at City Hall – the first indication that something unusual was happening. The board met privately for about 25 minutes before the meeting was opened, an allowance city attorneys say is permissible when personnel matters and health issues are being discussed. The MATA board took no votes on Garrison’s resignation until the public session.

Garrison’s departure comes at a time when you are about to see a concerted and coordinated push for a dedicated source of local public funding for MATA.

A new report from Innovate Memphis, Livable Memphis and the Greater Memphis Chamber shows the level of funding for public transportation in Memphis is behind the funding in peer cities.

The dollar amount being sought annually is about $30 million with $20 million for operating and $10 million for capital.

The cover story by Andy Meek in our weekly, The Memphis News, is about the closing of Booksellers at Laurelwood and the locally-owned independent bookstore as an institution.

And you will also find The Memphis News Economic Overview in the new edition – local data and local opinions from the business community on where the Memphis economy has been and where it is going.

The PDF of the new issue is up on this website now. The hard copies hit the streets Friday morning and the cover story goes up online Friday afternoon.

In our Friday Sports Section:

The Grizz and Redbirds make some changes off the court and off the field that better position the two businesses.

Meanwhile, Don Wade examines the ups and downs the Grizz are having on the court and finds they have lots of company in the NBA this season.

David Climer in Nashville on the search for a new athletic director at the Big Orange and he doesn’t see the selection being made any time soon given UT’s history in these matters and the five months it took just to hire a search firm.

Dave Link in Knoxville reports David Blackburn, AD at UT-Chattanooga is the favorite for the job. But he rates some other possibilities.

Terry McCormick in Titan Town counts five Titans in the Pro Bowl.

Drake Cleaners in Midtown marks its centennial this year. And over time the business has gone from dry cleaning and the traditional kind of repairs associated with that to alterations to the wedding business. For about the last four years, Drake has built a thriving alterations business that deals with wedding dresses starting with restoring vintage gowns and now a separate salon for the business.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville unveiling proposed incentives Thursday for better broadband access in rural areas of the state and even allowing electric co-ops to do retail broadband. Our Nashville correspondent, Sam Stockard, says this is $45 million in incentives over three years to private companies with some additional federal grants already being provided.

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell is the guest on “Behind The Headlines.” The interview, hosted by our publisher, Eric Barnes, from Nashville touching on local issues as well as statewide issues airs Friday at 7 p.m. on WKNO TV.

Six years after his appointment to the federal bench, Nashville U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp has announced his resignation effective in mid-April to go back to private practice. Sharp will be joining the Nashville office of the national law firm Sanford Heisler. Last month, fellow Judge Todd Campbell announced his resignation, making two open seats on the Nashville federal court bench.

Also in the Nashville report, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry proposes a new soccer stadium to get a pro soccer team and the Tennessee Republican Party moved Thursday about three miles west of its location in Hillsboro Village.

In the Mississippi Legislature, there is a proposal to put an 8 percent tax on revenue made in the state from fantasy sports betting and regulate such operations with the Mississippi Gaming Commission. The bill was moving in house committee in Jackson at week’s end.

The Arkansas state Senate approved a ban Thursday on the “dilation and evacuation” abortion procedure and it is on its way to the desk of Gov. Asa Hutchinson who was expected to sign it into law late Thursday. Mississippi and West Virginia recently passed similar laws but those laws are on hold with legal challenges. And a legal challenge in Arkansas is likely as well.

The NBC TV show “This Is Us” filming in Mud Island’s Greenbelt Park Thursday.

A behind the scenes video for the “Sun Records” CMT series that starts next month. This looks like it could be a really deep dive. There is a Joe Hill Louis character… Ike Turner too.

When the 33rd annual International Blues Challenge by the Blues Foundation gets underway next Tuesday, the kickoff International Showcase, a free show, will be at Clayborn Temple. The IBC is a five-day long event at multiple venues drawing from around the world as well as across the U.S. in its contenders.

PROPERTY SALES 57 94 2,713
MORTGAGES 16 37 1,820
BUILDING PERMITS 303 621 6,322
BANKRUPTCIES 138 138 1,115