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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
The Memphis City Council approved a new lineup of renovations at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Tuesday in a play for more high-quality football recruits.
The council unanimously approved $2.5 million to renovate the home locker room and, if there's any money left over, paint support areas and improve the sound system.
Council member Reid Hedgepeth, a University of Memphis football player in the late 1990s and the sponsor of the resolution, said crews should finish the renovations by Sept. 1, before the 2018-19 season opens.
The improvements had the support of Mayor Jim Strickland's administration, Hedgepeth said.
"I think we've looked at all the needs there," Hedgepeth said.
The improvements could give the university a leg up in its efforts to recruit top talent from across the country, council member Frank Colvett Jr. said.
"It's good for the Tigers. It's good for the university, It's good for Memphis," he said.
This wouldn't be the first time the council has invested in the city-owned stadium, which historically operates at an annual deficit of about $500,000.
The stadium has received public-private investments of $38 million since 2010, including $4.8 million for seating upgrades in 2015. The U of M pledged to repay the $4.8 million to the city.
The council also voted last year to tack on a $1 facilities fee on single and seasonal tickets and to spend $100,000 to study an expansion of the stadium's capacity.
Here's what else happened Tuesday:
The council approved a historic overlay district for the Speedway Terrace neighborhood north of the Crosstown Concourse. The area is bounded by Lick Creek on the north, North Watkins on the east, both sides of Forrest Avenue on the south, and Interstate 240 on the west. A historic overlay gives the Landmarks Commission oversight of development in the area. However, the council also voted to hold onto the minutes until it approves changes to the overlays ordinance, perhaps by June 5, meaning the council can revisit the vote then.
The council briefly discussed whether to award Elvis Presley Enterprises a higher percentage of the property tax revenues captured by Graceland's tax-increment financing (TIF) district, but stopped short of taking action. EPE hopes to use the tax break to fund an expansion that includes an arena that may or may not violate the non-compete clause in the city's contract with the Memphis Grizzlies for the FedExForum. Council members seemed to side with Mayor Jim Strickland, who has argued that EPE should first present a fleshed-out expansion plan before the city decides whether to change the TIF.
The council named its members to seven "impasse" committees that will decide whether to support labor organizations or the administration in their ongoing contract dispute. In recent years, the council scrapped the committee decisions and instead approved a budget with an across-the-board pay raise for all employees.
Reach Ryan Poe at poe@commercial appeal.com or on Twitter at @ryanpoe.
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