Deal to Sell AutoZone Has $20M Price Tag and $20M Improvements Commitment

Things are heating up the Bluff City with what could be the most high-impact deal for the city reaching the 11th hour: the sale of the AutoZone Park and Memphis Redbirds minor league baseball team and franchise.

AutoZone Park current look

Things are heating up the Bluff City with what could be the most high-impact deal for the city reaching the 11th hour: the sale of the AutoZone Park and Memphis Redbirds minor league baseball team and franchise.

While there’s only one chance left for the Memphis City Council to approve the deal by its required Dec. 31st deadline, the sale agreement’s strong backing by Mayor A.C. Wharton, Jr. as well as the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation and Fundamental Advisors LP make the deal quite likely to happen.

Per the terms of the deal, the St. Louis Cardinals would purchase the Memphis Redbirds, while the City of Memphis would acquire the AutoZone Park from the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation. The foundation has been operating the financially troubled baseball team as well as the ballpark, under a forbearance agreement since it defaulted on its required bond payment in 2010.

Furthermore, Fundamental Advisors, the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation’s  sole bondholder will retire the original bonds issued by the Memphis Center City Revenue Finance Corp. and take a meaningful discount on the original principal amount.

Part of proposed upgrades at AutoZone Park

According to The Memphis Daily News, the city would buy the AutoZone Park for $20 million and invest $5 million more for improvements, while the Cardinals would rent the ballpark for $300,000 a year in a 17-year term lease with two five-year options. The St. Louis-based franchise would acquire the Redbirds in an intricate deal that involves six parties and operate the park through an LLC, covering any and all operating costs as well as deficits for the ballpark and the Redbirds franchise. The Cardinals would also invest $15 million for ballpark improvements. According to a recent Facebook post by the Redbirds, the improvements include creating “a more inviting lower bowl, a more vibrant Club Level Atmosphere and add[ing] other new opportunities throughout the ballpark.

Opened in 2000, the 14,284-seat ballpark cost $80.5 million to develop and replaced the Tim McCarver Stadium. Memphis-based Looney Ricks Kiss Architects and Kansas City-based HOK Sport designed the ballpark to Major League Baseball standards.

Images courtesy of Memphis Redbirds via Facebook