3/28/2014 9:56 A.M. ET
Cardinals finalize purchase of Memphis Redbirds
Club has long-term lease agreement with city to use AutoZone Park
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
The Cardinals, the city of Memphis and the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation have closed on the ownership transition of the Memphis Redbirds and AutoZone Park, solidifying the partnership between the big league club and the Triple-A franchise.
With the deal, the Cardinals acquire the Redbirds franchise, while the city of Memphis acquires the ballpark. The city will lease the stadium to the Redbirds via a long-term agreement.
"We are pleased to finalize the purchase of the Redbirds and are looking forward to a long-term partnership with the city of Memphis," Cardinals chairman and CEO William DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. "Finalizing this deal represents a positive move toward stability of professional baseball in Memphis."
The partnership will be on display Friday evening, when the Redbirds host the Cardinals (weather permitting) for a final exhibition tuneup at 6:35 p.m. CT at AutoZone Park.
"We are proud to announce the closing of this deal," Memphis mayor A C Wharton Jr. said. "With it comes long-term benefits for our great city, including stabilizing the future of the Redbirds and AutoZone Park for decades to come. Through this transaction, we will continue our successful revitalization of downtown Memphis -- in fact, we are looking forward to the festivities tonight, with the highly anticipated 'Battle of the Birds,' when the Redbirds are hosting the Cardinals in a sold-out preseason exhibition game for their 2014 season opener at AutoZone Park."
The agreement includes a "significant" multiseason capital investment in AutoZone Park, which will be put toward "state-of-the-art features and fan-friendly amenities."
According to a Cardinals release, with the closing, Fundamental Advisors LP, the Foundation's sole bondholder, retired the original bonds issued by the Memphis Center City Revenue Finance Corporation.
"Over the past three and a half years, together with the city and the Foundation, we've worked hard to stabilize the financial condition of the team and maintain the stadium at the highest level possible," Fundamental chairman and CEO Laurence Gottlieb said in a statement. "Thanks to all parties involved, both the Redbirds and AutoZone Park have bright futures ahead. We are proud of what we have achieved and believe it is the right time to pass the baton on to the city of Memphis and the world-class St. Louis Cardinals organization."