Tennessee Governor To Memphis Mayor: We May Have Money For Sports Venue Projects

The governor has included sports venue spending for Memphis in his budget.

It appears that Memphis, Tennessee Mayor Jim Strickland has gotten an answer to his question of what about me? Why are Nashville and Knoxville getting money from the state for an NFL facility in Nashville and a minor league baseball stadium in Knoxville and why is Memphis not getting sports venue money? Strickland and Memphis elected officials want about $350 million from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to do extensive renovations at the city’s arena that houses the National Basketball Association’s Grizzlies along with upgrades at the city’s football stadium which once housed a World Football League team in the mid-1970s and a United States Football League franchise in the 1980s and in 2023 hosts two USFL teams. Lee has said sure, I have the money for you, if Tennessee legislators say yes. Strickland wants money to renovate the local minor league baseball park and knock down the Mid-South Coliseum, which has been closed since 2006. Strickland wants to build a soccer stadium to house the United Soccer League’s 901 FC on the property. The sports projects are expected to cost $684 million.

Strickland had trouble justifying the money request. “It is truly not just about business or entertaining or the culture of the city. It’s not just about tax generation or economic impact. It’s all that and more. Your city identity is tied to sports teams.” Memphis is the home to Elvis Presley’s Graceland and Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio. Internationally, more people know Memphis for Elvis and Sun Studio than Memphis Grizzlies basketball or the Liberty Bowl. Strickland claims Memphis is a very good sports town but Lee and Strickland know if the city wants to remain an NBA town, it better bring its arena up to NBA state-of-the art facility standards. In sports, public money talks.

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Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) guards Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman