An asterisk could have been included when we named Memphis’ Auto Zone Park the No. 1 ballpark in the minors this spring. After all, the bells and whistles featured throughout the downtown facility are unmatched in the minors — unfortunately so is its price tag.
No ballpark has matched Memphis’ $80.5 million cost since it was built in 2000. And that cost has finally caught up with the Redbirds, as the club was unable to make a $1.625 million bond payment on the ballpark in March, forcing the team to go in default on the facility and tap a reserve fund for the first time.
"Technically it’s in default, but the reserve fund is there for this occurrence,” Redbirds president Dave Chase told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. ”It’s the first time we’ve had to use the reserve fund. We’ve been openly talking to the bondholders about how we go forward from here."
The stadium debt has forced Memphis to put the team and ballpark up for sale, as their annual $5 million payment essentially wipes out the profits from one of the minors’ top grossing teams. It has also made it difficult to find an owner—the St. Louis Cardinals backed out of an agreement last winter.
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