The Memphis Blues Again?

Orlando Magic's Paolo Banchero (5) looks for a shot against Memphis Grizzlies' Santi Aldama (7) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The city has money to renovate or build sports facilities but has not started any projects.

If you are a Memphis city official and you get $350 million from the Tennessee General Assembly to fix up the city-owned football stadium and the city-owned arena, how do you allocate that money?  There is no answer at the moment. The $350 million is part of an overall $684 million Memphis sports upgrade package. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland also planned to use the money to knock down the Mid-South Coliseum, which has been closed since 2006, and replace it with a soccer stadium which would house the United Soccer League’s 901 FC team. But the state has earmarked the money for the football facility and the arena only. The people in charge of handing out the state portion of that money do not know what to spend on the football facility or the arena that is used by the National Basketball Association’s Grizzlies franchise. That has caused a problem.

University of Memphis president Bill Hardgrave wants the money to fix up the 58-year-old Liberty Bowl in the hope that somehow the school will end up in a major college football conference and will become a big-time football school as soon as possible. Strickland wants to keep the NBA Grizzlies in town beyond 2029, which is the year that the Grizzlies ownership’s lease ends. A new deal is needed to extend that lease. The city and state have agreed to throw money into upgrading the building so that it meets minimal NBA state-of-the-art standards. The city would pay for renovations of the minor league baseball park. The second tier United Soccer League’s Memphis 901 FC franchise ownership wants the money for the 7,500-seat stadium and there is some pressure on Memphis officials to approve a soccer venue because the threat of the team leaving looms. It’s just another day in the stadium and arena game.

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Stadium vs SMU, 2019
Liberty Bowl