Wharton on AutoZone Park: 'We're starting the ball game over' - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Wharton on AutoZone Park: 'We're starting the ball game over'

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(WMC-TV) - Whether the city of Memphis should buy AutoZone Park is a divisive issue for the mayor and council members.

Mayor A C Wharton needs the city council's approval to buy the park. Many members feel like they are being rushed to make an important decision potentially involving taxpayer dollars.

As of Thursday, both arms of city government seem to be getting closer to playing on the same team.

One week into the new year AutoZone Park could belong to the city of Memphis.

"There are two things. One: recognize the value of it, yet at the same time protect the city of Memphis taxpayers from undo-exposure," said Wharton.

Discussions between Wharton and the council had a rocky start.

"Those innings have been played. We're starting the ball game over, if you will. We're going maybe into the seventh inning stretch and we're getting ready to wrap the ball game up," said Wharton.

Wharton asked the council to delay their vote until January 7 when the council was able to run the numbers.

In a weekly council email update, councilman Jim Strickland said the park could pay for itself. Although, there are variables that could result in an annual cost to the city between $100,000 and $300,000 a year. Strickland is proposing adding $1 to a charge of 50 cents on game tickets to help cover the debt.

"We're not going to accept or reject anything until everything is on the table," said Wharton.

The alternative to not buying the park is the Redbirds could fly away and the park sits empty. Wharton hopes he and the council can work as a team and keep the team downtown.

Earlier this month the council voted to reduce the purchase price of the park from $20 million to $17.5 million.

This may or may not be acceptable to the Cardinals or the current bond holders. Wharton says he will be in a meeting with all interested parties Friday and all ideas will be on the table.

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