That plan to have the city of Memphis bail out the minor-league Redbirds by buying their money-losing stadium while selling the money-making team to the St. Louis Cardinals is now a reality, with the city spending $24 million on the deal. The Memphis Flyer reports that “the loans would not be paid for directly from the city coffers,” but it actually seems to mean that it would be paid for by diverting tax money that the city would otherwise receive, since the bonds would mostly be paid off with “tax credits [and] tax rebates,” with the Redbirds chipping in a comparatively piddly $300,000 a year in rent.
The Flyer touts this as “keeping the Memphis Redbirds baseball team in Memphis for the next 17 years,” which I suppose it does, though given that Memphis is by far one of the largest Triple-A baseball markets, you have to wonder if the team really would have left without a bailout. (Especially since even if it left it still would have been saddled with the stadium.) It’s possible the deal could work out okay for Memphis if it gets enough revenue from the ballpark, but as I still can’t find any indication of who’d get what revenue streams (concessions, parking, etc.), it’s tough to predict. Suffice to say that it wouldn’t be much of a bailout if the Cardinals weren’t getting to keep most of the revenues, though, so I’m not overly optimistic.
The Memphis city council voted 8-4 to approve the plan, after the team rallied fans to show up at the hearing in Redbirds regalia:
Proponents of the park purchase filled the seats at Memphis City Hall Tuesday and roared with applause as the approval vote tally was read. The fans of the deal sported red, Redbirds t-shirts, foam fingers, baseball caps and rally signs that read “Vote Yes – Rally for AutoZone Park.”
Hundreds gathered at AutoZone Park Tuesday afternoon for a rally in support of the city’s purchase of the ballpark ahead of Tuesday evening’s vote. The crowd gathered were given free hot dogs, hot chocolate, Redbirds baseball hats, and beanies.
I take it all back: $24 million in public funds in exchange for free hot dogs is totally worth it.