Historical Donation, Potential Stadium Ownership Headline Big Day for Memphis Athletics
On a sleepy Tuesday morning before the Thanksgiving Weekend, the University of Memphis had some substantial news to break. In what will be the largest gift in the University’s history, FedEx founder and longtime Tiger support Fred Smith announced a 50 million dollar commitment to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium renovations, breaking a months-long funding allocation stalemate between representatives of the University of Memphis, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the City of Memphis.
The good news didn’t end there, though. It was further learned Tuesday morning that a Memphis City Councilman has introduced a resolution to allocate and appropriate $120 million in State grant funding to go toward stadium renovations, as well as a transfer of ownership of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium from the City of Memphis to its flagship University. Pending approval, the funding and ownership transfer will be effective December 30, 2023. Memphis Athletics further announced its intentions to launch a 50 million dollar capital campaign to match the Smith Family’s gift to the University, ultimately amounting to approximately $220 million to go toward the overhaul of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
This announcement arrives on the heels of Memphis Football’s final home game of the season last Saturday. In six games inside Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium this year, the Tigers drew an average crowd of 29,782 per game. The Tigers’ largest attendance came in a Friday Night matchup against reigning conference champions Tulane, drawing a crowd of 35,609. In Ryan Silverfield’s four-year tenure, only the 2021 season drew a higher game-to-game average (31,295). In 2015, Memphis Football averaged a home attendance of 43,802 in Justin Fuente’s final year as head coach, marking the highest average attendance in program history.
A true win-win for all parties involved, fans of all Memphis sports should have a little extra to smile about as they pass the stuffing and gravy this weekend.
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