Local 24 Investigates: Redbirds Attendance

By Jeni Diprizio | jdiprizio@localmemphis.com

Published 02/25 2014 12:20PM

Updated 02/25 2014 06:56PM

MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - Were Memphis city leaders missing a crucial piece of information before deciding to spend $24 million dollars to buy AutoZone Park?

When it comes to paying for the park, many of the estimates were based on attendance figures.

For the past 15 years those figures may have been inflated because of a deal that guaranteed the sale of a large number of the club seats and that deal ends this year.

Outside AutoZone Park, people are excited about the upcoming baseball season.

“I love the Redbirds. Go to a lot of games. They are so much fun,” fan Wes Moss said.

Taxpayers should hope that excitement leads to more ticket sales. That is because at the end of this season, according to the treasurer for the Memphis Redbirds Foundation, what was called the FedEx ticket guarantee expires.

According to the original bond paper work issued for the construction of the stadium, FedEx guaranteed to purchase more than half of the club seats the first fifteen years the stadium was open.

The promise was made to ensure that the stadium generated a certain amount of money.

A few years ago, it was lowered to 30%. 

Which means for the last several years, one out of three club seats was purchased by FedEx.

It's a deal that city leaders didn’t know about until last week.

Paul Morris is with the Downtown Commission, the agency that issued the bonds for the original construction of the stadium and this new deal.

“the projections are based on what’s been done in the past,” Morris said.

Even at 30 percent, when you break it down, it’s 540 club seats per game.

At $950 dollars per seat for season tickets, it equals just over a half a million dollars a year.

And adds almost 40,000 visitors per season to the team's attendance numbers.

Without a certain percentage of seats guaranteed, the question is re the projected numbers off? Could the bottom line could be effected? And could that result in taxpayers having to make up for the stadium shortfall?

Taxpayers can only hope when it comes to ticket sales, with the help of new team owners the Memphis Redbirds will hit a home run.

“I believe this will be a non issue because of improved product marketing and a fresh start,” commissioner Jim Strickland said.

A spokesperson for the Redbirds said despite the ticket guarantees ending this season, they're hopeful that by enhancing the club level area, they will grow sales which will bring in more money.

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