Millions approved for improvements to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium

Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 10:23 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The rain moved out just in time for Friday Night Stripes at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium at Liberty Park in Midtown Memphis.

And as the University of Memphis Tigers football squad showed off new players, school officials talked about the new improvements coming to the stadium.

After watching Cincinnati, UCF and Florida move up to the Big 12, Memphis has doubled down. The plan now is to modernize a stadium built back in 1965 in order to be in a much better position the next time conference realignment comes around.

During Friday Night Stripes, the Tigers’ annual spring exhibition game, diehard fan Lori Connolly couldn’t wait to sign up for season tickets.

“Because it’s the experience,” she told Action News 5. “The Memphis Tigers are incredible. The energy. The Tiger Walk. Everything about the Memphis Tigers is incredible.”

Lori Connolly, Memphis Tigers fan
Lori Connolly, Memphis Tigers fan(Action News 5)

The fan experience is about to get even better now that the Tennessee state legislature approved $350 million for Memphis to make upgrades to its sports venues.

Improvements to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium include premium seating options on the west side, a hospitality experience within a halo space surrounding the stadium, and restroom and concession upgrades.

Longtime fans Willie and Vernita Flynn say they can’t wait.

“I think it will be great. I also, in renovating the stadium, I hope they put better handicap sections in here for disabled people like me,” said Willie, “because it’s very difficult sitting on those bleachers.”

”It will really be a plus for the students, residents, the community. I’m all for it. I really am,” said Vernita.

The renovations are expected to cost between $150 and $200 million, a big price tag that could propel the University of Memphis to a bigger conference.

“I don’t think doing this with the stadium will in and of itself get us into a Power 5 conference or allow us to elevate,” said UofM Athletic Director Laird Veatch, “but not doing it would be a great way to prevent it.”

With $70 million already invested in UofM athletic facilities over the last seven years, Tigers fans like Connolly hope this next major investment pushes Memphis over the conference realignment goal line.

“Memphis is an incredible university,” said Connolly, “and should be recognized for that. Where we’ve come with Penny and Silverfield, we totally should be in a different conference.”

City of Memphis leaders need to figure out how much of that $350 million goes to FedExForum upgrades and toward building a new soccer stadium for 901FC before the UofM finds out how much it’s going to get.

Construction on Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium is scheduled to start after the 2023 season ends and is expected to be finished by the start of the 2025 season.

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