Sale of AutoZone Park finalized, Cardinals now own Redbirds - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Sale of AutoZone Park finalized, Cardinals now own Redbirds

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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

The battle of the birds never took off tonight, but the Cardinals organization says they're looking forward to a long-term partnership with the city of Memphis.

The Redbirds opened the gate Friday for the 2014 season, a new chapter for the Triple-A ball club as the St. Louis Cardinals finalized their deal to buy the team.

"Oh I think it's great, I'm so glad they've come through on it," said Brenda Hampton.

Fans packed ballpark for the scheduled exhibition game against the Cardinals. Hours before the pitch diehards were there to see the major leaguers take batting practice.

"We drove up 2 hours to be here today" said Tonya Whitten, a teacher who brought her class from Faulkner Elementary school in Mississippi. The Cardinals fan has been coming to see the Redbirds for years.

"I like the ball park because it reminds me of Busch Stadium so much," said Whitten.

The Cardinals will be making a significant investment in the stadium; the team is touting state-of-the-art features and new amenities. It was all part of the deal for the city to buy the stadium.     

The Cardinals signed a multi-year agreement with the city to lease AutoZone Park. The team also committed to expand an inner-city youth baseball program in Memphis.

"The Cardinals are going to do so much," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. "They're going to make improvements in the physical stadium down there but we're going to stay on it to make sure that they satisfy the community obligation that they've made, that they've made to us we're going to make sure that happens."

The Redibrds' future in the Bluff City was in doubt until the Cardinals and city brokered the deal. The Cardinals want to get the team to draw people from around the Mid-South.

"I just like the whole system they've got going," said Roland Johnson. "The minor league team feeding the major league team and I think that's the way it should be."

Johnson and his wife Gwendolyn drove down from Kennett, Mo., to see the teams play.

"They have a lot of great talent down here in the Memphis Red Birds and these young guys really get a chance with the St. Louis Cardinals to show what they've got," said Gwendolyn Johnson.

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