State OKs $350M for Memphis sports arena upgrades
by: David Royer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis is getting $350 million from the state of Tennessee for a renovated football stadium, basketball arena and a new soccer stadium.
The big ask by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland was granted in the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which was approved Thursday. The money will go toward a $684 million Memphis sports upgrade package first made public last October.
The exact distribution of funding to each project will be released by the city at a later date.
Much of the money will be marked for upgrades to the Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, where the University of Memphis Tigers football team plays, and to the FedExForum, which is shared by the Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis Tigers basketball team.
Strickland said he hoped the improvements would provide the catalyst to move the University of Memphis into a Power Five Conference.
Renovations to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium are expected to begin after the 2023 season and be completed by 2025, the university said in a release.
“The University of Memphis is thankful to Gov. Bill Lee and the State of Tennessee Legislature for the approval of Mayor Jim Strickland’s monumental request of $350 million to renovate both Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium and FedExForum, which are leased by our athletic department,” University of Memphis President Bill Hardgrave said. “We are very grateful to the Governor for recognizing the much-needed improvements and including funds for the renovations in his budget. Our football and basketball programs, fans and overall athletics will benefit greatly from the state-of-the-art upgrades.”
Strickland has previously said that improvements to the FedExForum were needed to keep the Grizzlies in Memphis after the 2029 season.
Additional money will go toward a new multi-use stadium planned at Liberty Park that will be used by the 901 FC soccer team.
Strickland began the pitch to state lawmakers after the General Assembly approved half a billion dollars for a renovated stadium for the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.