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Tourism Development Zone Bond approved for Liberty Park development at former Memphis Fairgrounds

The mixed-use, public-private development and sports and events center is set to begin phased openings in 2022.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Tourism Development Zone Bond has been approved by the Tennessee State Funding Board for the development of Liberty Park at the former Memphis Fairgrounds in Memphis.

The mixed-use, public-private development and sports and events center is set to begin phased openings in 2022. 

Plans include a hotel and indoor sports complex. And Austin-based High Five Entertainment is planning a 65,000 square foot facility with a bowling alley, laser tag, a ropes course, virtual reality simulations, and an arcade.

Read the full news release on the TDZ Bond approval below: 

Today, the Tennessee State Funding Board approved an issuance of Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) Bonds for the City of Memphis to directly fund new developments to Liberty Park.

The State of Tennessee’s affirmative vote has secured the project’s feasibility to move forward and begin construction. The TDZ Bonds transaction is a result of approved resolutions for issuance of TDZ Bonds in early 2021 by the EDGE Board and Memphis City Council. The State Funding Board includes Governor Bill Lee, Comptroller Jason Mumpower, Secretary of State Tre Hargett, State Treasurer David Lillard, and Finance & Administration Commissioner Butch Eley.

“We appreciate our elected officials and leaders on the local and state level for their support and their votes to secure our vision for Liberty Park,” said Mayor Jim Strickland. “Liberty Park represents an intersection of so many elements—youth, community, sports, entertainment, public greenspaces, tourism—that together make Memphis the place to be. We have a winning team to take us into the second half of this project.”

As part of Liberty Park’s new developments, the City will make infrastructure improvements to the campus; design and construct the Memphis Sports and Events Center (MSEC), a 227,000-square-foot center for sports and events; and begin site work along Central Avenue for a future 18-acre mixed-use private development, which will house public plazas, hotels, retail and dining space, and residential apartments.

The City of Memphis has issued a Notice to Proceed to Turner Construction, who has been contracted to begin onsite groundwork as soon as Tuesday morning, May 25.

“Our project timeline remains on schedule, and our construction team is prepared to begin the next phase of Liberty Park immediately,” said Mary Claire Borys, Administrator of Strategic Initiatives for the City of Memphis Division of Housing & Community Development. “We look forward to getting the Sports & Events Center underway while also reimagining and returning the Liberty Park campus to its true ‘park’ identity with infrastructure and landscaping plans.”

Liberty Park will be anchored by the MSEC, a state-of-the-art facility housing two multi-purpose venues with the ability to host multiple major tournaments simultaneously. The facility will include a hardcourt pavilion with permanent hardwood courts for basketball and volleyball; a 75,000-square-foot column-free events pavilion designed to host sporting events, trade shows, graduations and more. The MSEC will also house a large café with indoor and outdoor seating and provide space for community tenants. Construction of the MSEC is expected to be completed in October 2022.

Local women-owned architecture firm brg3s is the architect of record and is building upon internationally acclaimed planning and design firm Populous ’ initial concept design of the center. The MSEC will be managed by Virginia-based Eastern Sports Management, a regional leader in indoor sports facility management for all-ages athletic competition and recreation.

“We’re ready to activate a local resource and a tourism destination at Liberty Park,” said John Wack, President of Eastern Sports Management. “We couldn’t be more excited to see dirt moving this week for the future Sports & Events Center.”

In addition, Liberty Park’s plans include improved public rights of way, new playgrounds and pavilions, a renovated Pipkin Building, outdoor playing fields at the MSEC, and a new track and football field at Tobey Park. The total budget for the City’s redevelopment of Liberty Park is $126 million; $70.6 million will come from the TDZ Bonds. When coupled with private development plans, Liberty Park’s project budget exceeds $200 million.

To date, the City of Memphis has signed letters of intent with Capstone Development Co. to develop two hotels at Liberty Park as well as Austin-based High 5 Entertainment to develop a 40,000-square-foot indoor arcade—complete with a bowling alley, bars and restaurant—and a 25,000-square-foot outdoor miniature golf course. The City is in the midst of exclusive negotiations with Capstone and M&M Enterprises to jointly serve as the master developer for the site.

The Liberty Park campus today includes iconic, active destinations such as the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and Tiger Lane, the Children’s Museum of Memphis, and the Kroc Center.

“This project is an excellent example of a public-private partnership,” said Norman Jenkins, President & CEO of Capstone Development Co. “We all celebrate today’s milestone for Liberty Park. I’m impressed with the City’s effort to keep driving the project forward despite the past year’s pandemic. We’re excited to be part of this campus’ future.”

For more information, visit libertyparkmemphis.com