City proposes $120M for Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, transfer of ownership to UofM

Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 10:03 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2023 at 5:59 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The City of Memphis has launched a proposal that will provide major funding for Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium as well as transfer ownership of the stadium to the University of Memphis Auxiliary Services Foundation.

The $120 million would come from state grant funds and go toward renovations of the stadium.

The proposal is pending city council approval and would go into effect on December 30.

“As a Tiger fan and UofM graduate, I could not be happier that we are able to make this happen,” Mayor Jim Strickland said. “With these renovations, the stadium will receive much needed upgrades, and this puts the University in an excellent position as they continue to work towards entrance into a Power Five conference. Thanks to the State of Tennessee and the Smith Family for their contributions, and thanks to both the UofM and Grizzlies teams for their cooperation as we have worked through this process.”

In addition, the Frederick W. Smith Family, headed by the founder and executive chairman of FedEx, will donate $50 million to the university toward renovations to the stadium.

It’s the largest gift in university history.

“We truly appreciate the Smith Family for recognizing the strength of our University and athletic programs and wanting to help continue our momentum for the betterment of our entire City,” University of Memphis President Dr. Bill Hardgrave said. “Their substantial gift will help us chart the course of not just our football program, but our entire University, as we look to ascend nationally. We are grateful for the leadership of Mayor Jim Strickland and the City of Memphis in securing state funding for our City’s sports venues, and we appreciate the City’s ongoing partnership as we navigate this potential game-changing opportunity for our University.”

This comes after the Tennessee state legislature approved $350 million for Memphis to make upgrades to its sports venues in April.

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.

Memphis Athletics will launch a $50 million capital campaign to match the Smith family’s donation, meaning renovations to the stadium will total $220 million.

The remaining $230 million in state funds will go toward renovations at FedExForum, Mayor Strickland said.

“We are still working with the Grizzlies to finalize a deal to keep them in Memphis for an additional 25 years, and I am optimistic we can reach a framework of an agreement soon,” Strickland said.

Tuesday’s resolution did not include funding for AutoZone Park, something that Memphis Redbirds President Craig Unger expressed disappointment about in a statement posted to social media.

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