The Memphis City Council agreed Tuesday to purchase the Memphis Redbirds' AutoZone Park for $24 million, allowing the completion of a deal that will see the St. Louis Cardinals take financial control of their Triple-A affiliate.
As part of the deal, the Cardinals agreed to sign a four-year player development contract with Memphis. The team will assume control of the franchise this season and plans to make improvements to AutoZone Park next offseason.
Earlier Tuesday, city residents gathered outside AutoZone Park to voice support for the proposal. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak spoke with those supporters and also spoke during the city council meeting, according to MLB.com.
"I hear a lot of angst about this deal, and I just think one of the things we need to think about as a group is how we want to see this ballpark and the vision moving forward," he said in his pitch to council members. "Our job is about making money, making a profit at the ballpark. … This is a unique opportunity for the city of Memphis."
The city will pay for the stadium with city-backed bonds which will be repaid in one of three ways:
--The Cardinals will be charged $300,000 in annual rent, with the possibility of an additional $100,000 in the event of a shortfall and an additional $100,000 pledge from AutoZone for the first 10 years.
--Payments from the owners of the adjacent Moore Building and its parking garage.
--Rebates on sales tax collected at the park.
St. Louis is expected to take control of the Memphis franchise in the next four to six weeks. The team was formerly operated by the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation, which at one time, was considered a Minor League Baseball innovator for its nonprofit approach to team and ballpark operations.
The city initially delayed a December vote on the issue, citing the need for more deliberation and information regarding the proposal.