Tennessee approves $350m funding package for Memphis venue projects

A rendering of the renovation project for Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium

Featured image credit: University of Memphis

The State of Tennessee has approved a $350m (£282.5m/€319.4m) contribution to stadium and arena projects in Memphis, including a significant redevelopment of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, home of the University of Memphis’ American football team, the Tigers.

The City of Memphis will receive the funds for Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium and FedExForum, home of Memphis Tiger men’s basketball and the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, as well as funding for construction of a new multi-use stadium for USL Championship soccer club Memphis 901 FC.

The funding has been approved as part of the State of Tennessee’s $55.6bn budget for fiscal year 2024. The exact funding distribution to each project will be provided by the City at a later date as two additional pieces of legislation are still underway.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee included $350m in funding in his proposed budget back in February. In October, the City of Memphis outlined a $684m venue development venture, with Mayor Jim Strickland and his administration seeking significant support for the project from the state.

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.

The City’s request for $350m in cash from the state was intended to form a major part of the proposed $150m to $200m redevelopment of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. The University of Memphis and the City announced plans in May 2022 to pursue a renovation of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium after deciding not to develop a new home for Memphis Tiger Football.

The stadium renovation design phase is currently well underway with partners Populous, Barton Malow and MFA. Construction is slated to begin after the 2023 football season, with completion anticipated by the start of the 2025 season. Priority elements of the project include:

  • A transformation of the stadium’s west side, providing several innovative premium seating options.
  • Creating a hospitality experience within the halo space surrounding the stadium.
  • Multiple other fan experience improvements throughout the stadium such as restroom and concessions upgrades.
  • A potential renovation of the east side 

“For more than a year, we have methodically worked on this historic project for our city’s sports venues,” said Strickland. “Over the next few years, our sports venues will be dramatically improved and will hopefully be the catalyst needed to help the University move into a Power Five conference.”

University of Memphis vice-president and director of intercollegiate athletics, Laird Veatch, added: A huge thank you to Governor Bill Lee and the State of Tennessee Legislature, as well as Mayor Jim Strickland and other City of Memphis leadership, for believing in our shared vision and recognising the significant impact this transformational renovation to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium will have on our University and the Mid-South as a whole.
“As we continue to position ourselves for the future of intercollegiate athletics, including potential conference realignment opportunities, having a modern and first-class football stadium will be a great demonstration of our entire state’s commitment to seeing the University of Memphis elevate on a national scale.”
The University said additional details and the latest design renderings will be released as the design process continues over the coming months.