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VOL. 132 | NO. 197 | Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: The Amazon Offer, Mario Chalmers, The New Symphony Conductor

By Bill Dries

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If you want to figure out the rhythm of Downtown there are a couple of time-honored indicators. One of my favorites is the church bells. The bell at Calvary Episcopal Church rang 60 times Tuesday for all of the lives lost in the Las Vegas massacre including that of the shooter. Old tones for new mourning as the seasons change in our city by the river.

We know more about what the city is willing to offer Amazon for its $5-billion 50,000-job HQ2 development. The broad strokes are a 30-year tax abatement. And $5,000 per job up to $50 million for jobs that pay an average of $60,000 a year before benefits. The city would also pump $10 million into items Amazon has said are musts on its list of specs including public transportation.

As for a site, the city as well as other cities in the MSA – Metropolitan Statistical Area – are putting together different possible sites on their own. Those players within Shelby County, at least, will put those together and sort them out probably to at least rank them or give Amazon some finalists. Lots of discussion about the possibility that HQ2 in Memphis could be several sites. And the state of Tennessee is about to come up with some kind of incentives it will put up that any city or area within the state that applies could add to its Amazon bid. For now, City Hall wants a 10-year extension from the state on the 20-year PILOT that is the maximum in terms of length that EDGE can do.

The council delayed any vote on spending the revenue from the Beale Street cover charge Tuesday. And most on the council seemed to be unaware that the Beale Street Task Force is about to recommend keeping some kind of cover charge. As promised here Tuesday morning, here is more detail on that. Council member Jamita Swearengen put up a proposal later Tuesday to do away with any kind of cover charge in committee as a reaction to criticism by former Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris of using the cover charge revenue to pay for private security. As Morris told us and has also told council members by letter, paying for that security is something the merchants have done as a term of their leases. Swearengen later agreed to delay putting her proposal to a vote Tuesday as well.

Here’s the rest of the council day at City Hall including a delay by the council in taking a final vote on the removal of Confederate monuments until after next week’s meeting of the Tennessee Historical Commission.

More on a few of these topics in our Thursday edition including the first discussion of what could follow the historical commission meeting.

University of Memphis Law School students gathered at the Jefferson Davis statue Tuesday afternoon following a forum there on the monuments controversy.

Some of you were watching Chandler Parsons at the Grizz preseason opener Monday at FedExForum. And some of you came to watch Chandler Parsons and instead Mario Chalmers caught your eye.

The formal opening of the Wolf River Greenway’s westernmost point – on Mud Island – is set for Oct. 21 with four hours of activities in what has been known as Confluence Park because it is where the Wolf River meets the Mississippi River. That name will probably change. This park is on the northern end of Mud Island and takes in 115 acres up to North Second Street. If you’ve made the turn toward North Second on Island Drive you’ve seen this as so much overgrowth at the end of Greenbelt Park. It now includes a 1.2 mile paved trial following the Wolf’s general direction. There are 10 and 12 foot concrete and asphalt trails and a boardwalk – picnic tables, benches, bike racks and a bike repair station. Opening day will start with yoga at 10 a.m. and include stroller strides demonstrations, a photo booth, face painting, chalk art, food trucks. More on all of this when next we meet here.

Robert Moody, the new principal conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, talks about a fast track toward an orchestra that reflects the city and MSO’s role in the MLK 50 observances next April.

Atop our Memphis Newsmakers section, Mike Rodriguez, City Hall’s new chief information officer, and the guitar in his closet.

A new retail center at Winchester and Houston Levee in Collierville has its two anchors for “Houston Levee Market.”

Buckman buys CiDRA – yep, lower case “i”.

At Memphis International Airport, all electronics larger than a cell phone in the bin for an x-ray under new TSA security measures announced earlier this summer. No changes in the items you can take through a standard checkpoint.

St. Mary’s plans for a new athletic curriculum on its East Memphis campus.

Warren Buffett buys a major stake in the Haslam family business.

Whatever else may be going on in Nashville around the Amazon free-for-all, the city there has a financing plan for a $250 million stadium to get a professional soccer expansion team to go with the Titans and the Predators. … Sorry, my mind wandered for a second just anticipating what the reaction here would be if a mayor proposed building a $250 million arena for a soccer team. We really are three grand divisions in Tennessee.

Lance Russell wasn’t just the host of WHBQ’s professional wrestling program. He was the program director at WHBQ television at a time when the weather was done with magnets on a map and local programming was more than newscasts and “Candy Cash.” Wrestling was part of a lineup in the 1960s into the 1970s that included old movies packaged as the “Million Dollar Movie” and “Fantastic Features.” “Fantastic Features” was a Saturday night horror movie along the lines of the Wolf Man, Frankenstein and the Mummy – in other words, the classics – hosted by a vampire-like host Sivad who told corny jokes during commercial breaks.

Sivad was massively popular. But it was the Saturday morning wrestling program that Russell himself hosted that was an off-the-charts, sustained, bona fide cultural statement that became Russell’s career, including a jump to WMC-TV in the mid-1970s when the dominant wrestling promoters had a parting of the ways – all precisely chronicled in the 2011 documentary “Memphis Heat.”

Channel 13’s “studio wrestling” was an hour-and-a-half program conceived simply to promote Monday night wrestling first at Ellis Auditorium and then at the Mid-South Coliseum. Give viewers parts of different storylines that continued at the Monday night event. And storylines there that picked back up on Saturday morning. Repeat for years in advance of wrestling’s move out of regionalism to cable television. Throw in a wardrobe supplied by Baxter’s, a men’s suit store, that got them a spot in the show and Russell was the perfect host.

Wrestling on WHBQ was so successful that for a time the ABC affiliate did not air American Bandstand, which was in the same time slot. And when you consider the station’s other simple yet hugely influential local programming like “Talent Party” you have to come to the conclusion that it was no accident that it happened on Russell’s watch.

Lance Russell was 91 years old.

PROPERTY SALES 38 38 12,796
MORTGAGES 27 27 8,030
BUILDING PERMITS 137 137 30,071
BANKRUPTCIES 44 44 6,108