City to make decision about possible AutoZone Park purchase - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

City to make decision about possible AutoZone Park purchase

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - In less than 24 hours, the fate of AutoZone Park will be decided.

The debate: Should Memphis taxpayers invest to buy the park amid financial troubles? On Tuesday, Memphis City Council will vote whether to spend the money.

The city's journey to home plate has turned into a late-inning pressure situation.

Mayor A C Wharton will pitch the purchase of AutoZone Park to the city council Tuesday.

"Everybody agrees that the stadium in the middle of our downtown is a critical asset," he said.

While some residents agree...

"It's just always been good for the kids to go to. We don't have a lot of that in Memphis," said resident Mark Costello.

Others do not.

"We're far enough in debt as it is," said resident Pierre Blackman.

The deal now at the plate: The St. Louis Cardinals would operate the ballpark and taxpayers would spend up to $5 million over the next 17 years.

Plus, the mayor wants to set up an RBI (Return Baseball to the Inner-city) Endowment.

"What we'd like is to see that the benefits of that stadium go out into the community," said Mayor Wharton.

"I hope we can maintain ownership here, have the Cardinals remain here, running the ball club for 17 years, I just don't want to punish the taxpayers for that," said Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland.

Strickland is concerned about stretching the city's finances.

"If the stadium can pay for itself, the money generated at the stadium would help pay for the city's investment, then I'd be okay with it," he added.

The city is concerned if they do not step in, the stadium will become 11 acres of blight.

"The good thing, Kontji, is I have not heard one person on the council say, 'To heck with it, I don't care,'" said Wharton.

Wharton said the battle is more about finding a win-win-win.

"First of all for the tax payers. Then, of course, the Redbirds and Cardinals," he said.

Supporters will march from AutoZone Park to city hall Tuesday afternoon to show support for the proposed acquisition. They also started a petition and social media pages.

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