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Published on April 24, 2024
Memphis' FedExForum Set for Upgrades as Tennessee Legislature Approves Funding ReallocationsSource: Google Street View

The Tennessee state legislature has moved forward on two bills poised to finance renovations at Memphis' FedExForum, measures that hinge on the reallocation of hotel and motel tax revenue between the city and Shelby County as the home of the Memphis Grizzlies looks towards the future.

According to The Commercial Appeal, the legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Brent Taylor, R-Memphis, and Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, would redefine the split of these tax contributions, earmarking 35.75% to Memphis Tourism, up to $11.4 million to Shelby County for FedExForum expenses, and the remaining 61.25% back to Memphis Tourism, this all with the stipulation that it doesn't kick in unless Shelby County approves, which they already did in a prior March resolution.

The passage was unanimous in both houses, with a 90-0 vote in the House and a 28-0 nod in the Senate; this comes after the state earmarked $350 million last year for the arena and Liberty Bowl upgrades. Sports Business Journal reports that these bills are now waiting for Governor Bill Lee's signature to become law.

Currently, Memphis Tourism receives a hefty chunk from the hotel-motel tax, estimated at $12.3 million of approximately $17.5 million for the 2023-24 revenue, as per The Center Square, with the latest bill setting a 61.2% cap on the future allotment while – in an effort that Sen. Taylor colorfully likened to "harder than a bunch of ugly strippers" to get it through and "baptizing a housecat" – seeks to navigate these bureaucratic waters; the senator's remarks garnered a blend of humor and potential backlash, with Taylor quipping he'd receive "a lot of fan mail" from the Cat Fanciers Association and maybe the Southern Baptists Association.

If the governor signs off, Memphis and Shelby County will be positioned to finalize the deal that could secure the Grizzlies a long-term lease, a strategic play that leverages tourism tax to score financial backing for the much-needed refurbishments of their home court. The anticipation of this signing symbolizes not just a game plan for the arena but a crucial shot for the economic vitality of the region.