Another season of Redbirds baseball is underway. This year, there could be some changes ahead for the Triple A franchise. The Cardinals are reportedly interested in buying their minor league team, and as part of a deal the city of Memphis could buy the ballpark.
"Whatever we do, we've got to make sure that everybody back home here benefits from it," says Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.
Mayor Wharton says his administration is in negotiations about AutoZone Park.
This week, the St. Louis Cardinals' Senior Vice President and General Manager John Mozeliak told the Wall Street Journal the team is looking into buying the Redbirds. The team is currently owned by the non-profit Redbirds Foundation. A private equity firm owns the municipal bonds for the park.
A deal with all parties could include the city buying the ball field. But, the city council would have to approve a final deal.
"This is not going to be rushed through; total transparency on this issue and I think the majority of the council will believe that we have to protect Memphis taxpayers," says Councilman Jim Strickland.
Councilman Strickland, who chairs the city council's budget committee, said council members haven't been briefed on the discussions. He doesn't want the city subsidizing entertainment, but there are ways to make it work.
The FedExForum is city owned, but it doesn't pay any operating expenses.
If the city buys the AutoZone Park, Strickland says they need to get the best deal possible.
"We have to balance things," he said. "Do we use money to pave roads or use money to do other things? Obviously we don't want to use money to buy a park unless we're going to get paid back 100 percent.
Mayor Wharton said he doesn't have a timeline for negotiating a deal. He says if the city buys the stadium it would have to benefit all of Memphis, not just downtown.
"I'm hopeful that we'll be able to reach some arrangement that protects the city as a government, that keeps the Redbirds here and to have the affiliation, the permanent affiliation with the Major League," he said. "Gee whiz, now that's a valuable asset."