The University of Memphis hopes a significant upgrade to its football stadium will put it in the conversation for a Power-5 conference

UM’s rationale for going the renovation route is that it will be a transformational yet responsible investment that will achieve its goals.people

The Univ. of Memphis and the City of Memphis intend to spend $150 million to $200 million to upgrade Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, after “creating a website with a scaffolding of information about the project, including information about the how they decided upgrades were the answer, what the project wants to accomplish and what will happen next,” according to Akers & Klyce of the MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. They “didn’t just send the basics of the plan.” The website said the price is “based on the school’s master plan projections, but that total could change once the designs are finalized through a tendering process. ‘offers’. It is expected to be made up of ‘public and private investment, with the university’s share coming from philanthropic organizations and premium seat revenue’. The former Liberty Bowl’s relevance as the ‘eternal home of the Tigers football” is an “eternal topic in the local conversation for many, many years”. There were moves to “advocate for the construction of a new, smaller stadium directly on the U of M campus, and there was pressure to simply upgrade the existing stadium.” The rationale provided by the school calls the renovation pathway a “transformational yet responsible investment that achieves our goals.” The school worked with Populous and other consultants to “weigh a new stadium against renovations, stacking ‘funding models’ and looking at other stadium projects in other cities.” Still to be determined: “The actual details. Like, what the capacity of the stadium will be after the renovations – although they say they expect the capacity to exceed 50,000 people. And how many will there be suites and premium seats? And what will they look like? (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/12).

GOLDEN TICKET? In Memphis, Mark Giannotto writes that there was “no way” to “answer the questions that weigh most heavily on a project that may well determine the future of Memphis athletics more than any outcome on field”. Giannotto: “Can they really pull it off, and is that enough to get invited to a Power Five conference?” The answer to both, on the face of it, is “hopefully”. If only because Memphis “seems to be doing this stadium renovation the right way.” It “isn’t just a cosmetic facelift.” This is a “significant change” for the entire west side of the city’s aging stadium. These are “elegant glass walls that will change the appearance of the old place from the outside”. Memphis AD Laird Veatch said: “There’s no guarantee. We know that. It’s not like you build it and we’re in it. What he does is he places us in a position where we are truly competitive.” It’s “not a new stadium that won’t be done for a decade”, it “can be done in time for the next round of conference realignment”. Giannotto: “But Memphis — the city, the school and the people — have to show the Big 12 that they can follow through on this” (TRADE CALL Memphis, 5/13).

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