Memphis gives new stadium 2nd look Public funding to be considered

April 27, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Some leaders of the NFL expansion bid in Memphis, Tenn., openly questioning long-standing plans to have a team play at a renovated Liberty Bowl, are reviving consideration of building a new stadium.

Ron Terry, a banker and chairman of the Memphis and Shelby County Sports Authority Corp., told the authority's 18-member board Friday that Memphis has "practically no chance" of landing an NFL team without at least a long-term stadium plan.

Among the finalists for the two expansion franchises the league will award this fall, Baltimore, St. Louis and Charlotte, N.C., are all promising new stadiums. The other finalist, Jacksonville, Fla., plans a $65 million renovation of the Gator Bowl.

Memphis' application calls for an $11 million upgrading of the 27-year-old Liberty Bowl, adding more club seats and sky boxes.

When the city's NFL investors suggested in 1992 that new stadium plans might need to be put into the long-term plans, public reaction was swift and negative. A poll taken by the Memphis Commercial Appeal found citizens solidly opposed to the use of public money for a new stadium.

But Terry told the newspaper last week that non-tax revenue sources need to be explored with an eye toward building a new stadium.

Cato Johnson, a board member of the Sports Authority, said the group did not disagree with its chairman.

"We agreed we strongly need to look at that issue and to look at all the financing possibilities," he said. Decisions on whether to proceed with plans for a new stadium could be made as soon as next month.

Among the options they will explore is a plan similar to one devised by NFL boosters in Charlotte, N.C., which calls for charging season-ticket holders fees of $500 and up for lifetime rights. The money would be used to finance the stadium.

"Everything has been put on the table and nothing has been taken off," Johnson said.

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