New owners usually mean ballpark changes, and that was especially true in Memphis this past season, when the St. Louis Cardinals took over the Redbirds and immediately committed to a series of ballpark changes that significantly enhanced the fan experience. The extensive improvements earned AutoZone Park Ballpark Digest's Best Ballpark Renovation (Over $6M) for 2015.
"AutoZone Park has always been one of the leading venues in Minor League Baseball, but there's no doubt it had become a dated facility," said Kevin Reichard, Ballpark Digest publisher. "With the St. Louis Cardinals coming on board as owners, it was clearly important to Cards team leaders and the Redbirds front office that the fan experience be significantly enhanced."
That was accomplished with an offseason renovation that stressed an enhanced fan experience. With an emphasis on the fan experience, ballpark renovations made by the Cardinals include installation of a state-of-the-art LED videoboard in left field, LED ribbon board displays, thirty-nine four tops, a right-field destination BBQ food area, a new left field bar, additional berm seating, an expanded and upgraded club level, AutoZone Park's first all-inclusive club in right field, playing field replacement and more.
As part of the 2014 long-term lease agreement between the St. Louis Cardinals and the city of Memphis, $4.5 million in bond proceeds were set aside to make capital improvements to AutoZone Park. The St. Louis Cardinals added more than $2 million in additional capital improvement money as well. Construction was overseen by Montgomery Martin Contractors of Memphis. Architecture designs were provided by Pendulum Studio II LLC of Kansas City.
"We're extremely honored to have AutoZone Park recognized by Ballpark Digest," said Redbirds General Manager Craig Unger. "The substantial improvements made this past year enhanced the ballpark and the guest experience while allowing AutoZone Park to continue to provide affordable, family-friendly entertainment in downtown Memphis."
The total renovation project included:
- New state-of-the-art LED videoboard displays, including a new 14' x 140' HD LED Video Wall in left field and two new 3' x 150' HD LED Ribbon Boards along the first and third base façades within the seating bowl.
- A BBQ-themed free-standing structure was constructed on the outfield concourse in right field.
- Relocated berm seating: Fixed seats in the left field and right field corners were removed to create two new grass berm seating areas to maintain affordable tickets that are closer to the action on the field and fan amenities.
- A new left-field bar features high-top tables, drink rails, and TVs.
- Four existing suites behind home plate were removed to create a more vibrant club atmosphere and signature view of AutoZone park for both baseball and non-baseball events. This improved and larger indoor group space features retractable windows, more TVs, and a full service 360-degree bar.
- Four existing suites in right field were removed to create AutoZone Park's first public all-inclusive area, which featured retractable windows, a full service bar, indoor/outdoor seating, pool tables, and TVs, draft beer, and house wines.
- Twenty-nine suites were be renovated with replaced floor covering, new lounge furniture, drink rails, casework, wall and ceiling finishes.
- Various Concourse Improvements: Additional TV screens added to concourses and public areas around the stadium. Concession stands throughout the main concourse will also receive various upgrades.
"Memphis is a great baseball town, and the Cardinals are a top-notch organization," Reichard said. "With the Redbirds management clearly committed to a great fan experience, the AutoZone Park upgrades should well-serve fans for years to come."