Your first look at Tom Lee Park renovations

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 10:31 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Get your dancin’ shoes - and your mud boots – ready!

Action News 5 got a look at the newly remodeled Tom Lee Park and the setup for this year’s Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival.

Usually, there are four stages in Tom Lee Park for Music Fest. But this year, Memphis in May officials say the Blues Tent is at Handy Park on Beale Street because of space limitations at TLP.

First impression seeing the $60 million renovated park down by the Mississippi River? It’s beautiful. Second impression: the stages are smaller this year.

“Each of these stages, by themselves in their own right, could be a festival,” said Randy Blevins, vice president of Marketing and Programming for Memphis in May. “For the fan that comes in, you’ll notice some extra shade trees and maybe a couple of winding paths you’re not accustomed to seeing. But other than that, we still have the three main stages with all the hottest music playing.”

The VW stage is at the north end. The Bud Light stage is in the middle of the park. And the Zyn stage is on the south side.

The setup is a little trickier this year because of the new structures, pathways, bridges, and trails. 18-wheelers, forklifts and golf carts carefully navigated around the park Tuesday when Action News 5 visited.

Artist tour buses and tech crews have to fit in the space, too. Blevins said it’s a delicate dance every year.

”That choreography is still going to exist this year,” he added. “It’s just going to be a bit tighter and a little bit more refined.” 

New flowers and trees, and projects still under construction are all fenced off to festival goers, as is the playground area.

Memphis police, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and Homeland Security coordinated on the safety plan, one newly reinforced after Sunday’s double shooting on Beale Street.

”I know that our president and CEO sent communication to the police chief and some of the other city leaders to make certain that we have the robust support that we normally have and then maybe a little extra,” said Blevins. “We take the safety of our fans, always have, extremely seriously.” 

Memphis River Parks Partnership, the non-profit managing Tom Lee Park, said the capacity is 55,000 people at any one time, giving each person three to four square feet of space.

Memphis in May, the non-profit running the Beale Street Music Festival, said they’re capping capacity at 22,000 for this year’s event.

No matter the crowd size, Memphis in May officials say get ready to boogie on down with the best view in M-town.

“Bring a fantastic attitude with you,” said Blevins, “and a hunger to see the river. And be ready to dance your shoes off!”

The gates for the 2023 Beale Street Music Festival open at 5 p.m. Friday.

Tickets are still available to see acts like the Lumineers, Glorilla, Earth Wind & Fire and Finesse2Tymes.

Tom Lee Park construction will resume after Memphis in May events conclude, with the park scheduled to open to the public on Labor Day.

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