State approves TDZ for Fairgrounds redevelopment

By Published: November 20, 2018 8:51 AM CT

A state panel approved Memphis’ request Monday for a Fairgrounds Tourism Development Zone to help fund an estimated $150 million project complete with a youth sports and events complex that will depend on construction of a privately developed hotel.

“If there are no private dollars, there will be no project,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told the State Building Commission Executive Subcommittee before it unanimously approved the plan.

Memphis will put $90 million toward the overall project, including the youth sports and events complex, Liberty Bowl improvements and several other connected projects.

The city will need a total of $60 million private dollars invested in the project, including hotel development and sponsorships for naming rights to the new facilities, according to Strickland.

Strickland’s administration is planning a 3-square-mile tourism development zone where sales tax revenue would be used to finance reconfiguration of the Mid-South Fairgrounds with the indoor youth sports complex as the central feature on East Parkway at Southern Avenue, where the Libertyland amusement park was located.

The mayor’s proposal includes moving a high school football field and track used by Shelby County Schools next to the youth sports complex and using the Central Avenue frontage where a field and track are located for a potential hotel and parking garage. The future of the mothballed Mid-South Coliseum, which has been used for city storage since 2006, will depend on the injection of development around it, and the city plans to take requests for proposals to repurpose the coliseum, according to Paul Young, director of Housing and Community Development for Memphis.

The overall project also includes the Children’s Museum of Memphis, rehabilitation of the Creative Arts Building for leasing as a family attraction, exterior improvements to the Pipkin Building for civic events and work on three historic structures known as the Armory buildings.

The Department of Finance and Administration confirmed the facility meets the requirements of state law and is located on the 155-acre fairgrounds campus.

The proposed tourism development zone boundaries extend beyond one mile from the perimeter of the facility “as necessitated by the mix of commercial and residential areas surrounding the fairgrounds,” according to the state’s review, but the proposed 2.97-square-mile zone doesn’t exceed the maximum 3 square miles allowed by state law.

If the State Funding Board gives approval at another step, the city of Memphis would issue bonds in late 2019 or early 2020 to finance construction. The state also would review and approve the payback plan.

The city is guaranteeing “any and all revenues produced by the TDZ in excess of those needed to fund phase 2 and 3 projects outlined in this application will be used for early repayment of debt service.” The city also understands the tourism development zone would end once all debt is paid back. Then all sales tax revenue would revert to regular taxing authorities.


Jim Strickland Liberty Bowl Paul Young
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a Nashville-based reporter with more than 30 years of journalism experience as a writer, editor and columnist covering the state Legislature and Tennessee politics for The Daily Memphian.

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