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Design & Development

Memphis sets out $684m venue investment plan

Images: Memphis 901 FC

The City of Memphis has outlined a $684m (£606.6m/€696.4m) venue development venture which includes a new stadium for USL Championship soccer club Memphis 901 FC and significant renovations to FedExForum, home of NBA basketball franchise the Memphis Grizzlies.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and his administration are to seek significant support for the project from the State of Tennessee, including $350m in cash, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper.

Memphis 901 FC yesterday (Tuesday) revealed plans to construct a new 10,000-person, soccer specific stadium within the Liberty Park area of the city. The facility is being designed by Odell Sports & Entertainment Studio, with local support from LRK.

By design, the club said 901 FC Stadium will first and foremost, pay homage to the Mid-South Coliseum, the venue it will replace that has been closed since 2006, and tie into Memphis’ rich music history.

The stadium will feature 7,500 fixed seats, plus suites, clubs and large covered gathering spaces for viewing parties and special events. The new stadium will also have the ability to host outdoor concerts, large scale events and other long-field sporting events.

Memphis 901 FC was founded in 2018 and currently shares AutoZone Park with the Memphis Redbirds Minor League Baseball team. The club’s new home is planned to open in time for the 2025 USL Championship season. 

Tim Howard, sporting director of 901 FC, said in a statement: “When we launched our football club in 2019, we had two dreams. The first was to compete at the highest level and win a USL Championship. Today, we are proud to be in the playoffs for our second consecutive season, this time as the second seed.

“The second goal was to build a proper soccer stadium with a world class pitch for our club that rivals that of Louisville or any of the great new venues being built in the United States and Europe for soccer. Today we move closer to that dream.” 

Significant renovations of FedExForum, which opened in 2004, are designed to tie in with a long-term lease extension with the Grizzlies, whose current deal is due to expire following the 2028-29 NBA season. Strickland said the City expects engineering plans from the team as to what a renovation could look like later this year.

Regarding the Grizzlies’ long-term future in Memphis, the mayor said: “I don’t think the public should worry. (Grizzlies principal owner) Mr. (Robert) Pera has shown a real commitment to Memphis – the agreement that we came up with last year, resigning Ja Morant, (and) the investments he’s making in the players. These discussions about redoing the stadium are a clear indication that they want to stay in Memphis for the long term.”

The Grizzlies this month announced upgrades at FedExForum, including a newly renovated space on the terrace level of the arena.

Meanwhile, the City’s request for $350m in cash from the state is also set to form a major part of the proposed $150m to $200m of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. The University of Memphis and the City announced plans in May to pursue a renovation of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium after deciding not to develop a new home for Memphis Tiger Football.

At the time, Strickland said the University, which does not own the stadium, would need to provide the “lion’s share” of the funding. However, he has now stated this could change with the input of state dollars.

The City’s plans also incorporate improvements for AutoZone Park, and request for state funding support for the publicly-owned venues comes just a day after the emergence of a stadium deal for NFL franchise the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans on Monday agreed terms with Nashville and Davidson County Mayor John Cooper for a new enclosed stadium that will cost up to $2.2bn, with some $500m to come from a one-time state contribution.

Spelling out the City’s development vision, Strickland added to the Commercial Appeal: “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.

“Sports, tourism and the economic impact of sports is significant. It deserves investment and deserves state investment. And none of it would really be possible without the state going through these big surpluses.”