Search begins for developer to take on 901 FC stadium project

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 8:35 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Thursday morning, a couple dozen developers met at the Memphis Sports & Event Center at Liberty Park, all of them interested in taking on the project to build a new stadium for Memphis 901 FC.

The tentative price tag on the project is $52.4 million, but that money is not confirmed at this time.

It would have to come from the state legislature, which has already approved $350 million for improvements to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium and FedExForum.

Still, 901 FC President Craig Unger is confident in the plan.

“There’s a lot of momentum for Memphis,” he said. “There’s a lot of momentum for this project.”

The United Soccer League (USL) has mandated all teams find their own stadium by 2026.

901 FC has been sharing AutoZone Park with the Memphis Redbirds.

Unger says the team is putting all its eggs in this basket.

“If we had a contingency plan, it meant that we’re not focused on this plan,” Unger said. “We’re 100% focused on this plan and bringing this across the finish line.”

“901 FC is a great partner. It’s a great product, great brand. We’re looking forward to working with them,” said Deputy COO for the City of Memphis Dan Springer.

At the meeting, facilitators made it clear to developers that they’re looking for a design that has roughly 7,500 seats with the capacity to hold 10,000 for events like concerts.

Unger’s confidence stems from Memphis’s own history of building stadiums to grow a team’s fanbase.

“I would use AutoZone Park as the greatest example of that,” Unger said. “When you look back at what baseball was doing in Memphis… and then AutoZone Park was built… they started, the first couple of years, drawing a million fans a year. It’s sort of the… we’ll use a baseball phrase… build it, and they will come.”

The stadium would replace the Mid-South Coliseum, which has been empty since 2006.

Advocates for the Coliseum have been pushing for the building’s renovation and repurposing.

“We’re disappointed,” Marvin Stockwell said to Action News 5 on Monday. “We think the Coliseum is an incredible civic asset. Two separate assessments have shown the building is in excellent shape, including the city’s own assessment.”

Stockwell is over the Coliseum Coalition, a group that for years has been working with the the City of Memphis to give tours inside the coliseum in hopes of finding an interested buyer to take on a restoration project.

“We live in a city that reopened Crosstown Concourse, turned the old Sears building into Crosstown Concourse,” Stockwell said. “This is actually a much lighter lift. If you search your heart, you know it’s true.”

Dan Springer told us after Thursday’s meeting that demolition of the Coliseum would cost between $5-$7 million.

“We’re still ironing out some of those details,” Springer said.

A timeline was laid out at Thursday’s meeting.

Interested developers will have to submit a proposal no later than March 2.

A shortlist of candidates will be made between March 7-9.

After that, an architect is expected to be selected by March 14.

Negotiations will take place March 14-28.

Finally, the hope is to have an agreement finalized by March 29.

All of this is to ensure a plan is ready and all of the ducks are in a row for if or when funding is approved by the state legislature.

Should it be approved, we’re told the plan is to demolish Mid-South Coliseum and finish a new stadium for 901 FC by mid-2025.

“There’s a desire for professional soccer here, and there’s a desire for a home for it,” said Unger.

Unger, along with partners in the City of Memphis and the Memphis Chamber, plan to go to Nashville next week to continue that push for funding in the state legislature, in hopes of getting the green light to fund the first permanent home for 901 FC.

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