The Memphis Grizzlies, the cities National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise, currently play at the FedEx Forum. However, with the NBA currently locked out, and looking more and more likely that there is going to be a big cutback in the length of the season (or possible no season at all), the city of Memphis has started to worry. The reason? The FedEx Forum is actually paid for through revenues produced by the team. However, if there is no team playing there, then that means the city will have to make the bond payments. Fox Memphis say the City Council is estimating that these will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 million. Those who will have to bare the burden? Most likely the local taxpayers. Things are getting urgent, city councilwoman Julie Fullilove notes:
“Should this lockout stay until December, then there’s a very big bill there that the city of Memphis will be responsible for, and whether or not we file a lawsuit, which may set precedent among other cities in this nation, is something we’ll have to wait and see. But it’s only being proactive that’s he’s offering this resolution.”
So with less than a month and a half away from the deadline when Memphis will start having to cough up some cash to make bond payments, the city has started to look at the potential for a lawsuit against the NBA. Curiously, when Fox Memphis talked to the individual in charge of the bond, he noted that there is currently a surplus in the account to pay the bond through 2028. He even notes that he is confused where the city got the idea that they needed to pay up $18 million soon, and that it would be the taxpayers who would have to pay it.
So there we have it, the City is thinking of suing the NBA for being locked out, claiming it will cost them part of the bond payment. The guy in charge of bond payments says there is more than enough money for the next decade and a half. The $18 million doesn’t seem to add up that the city would have to pay because of basketball not playing, as they only receive about $3.5 million a year currently from ticket sales and revenue. I think this may just be a political powerplay to help the politicians in the city council to look good. I don’t think it really will do much, and I doubt that they have much of a case against the NBA. Case in point to this being about politics, the City Council Chairman noted:
“I want the citizens of Memphis to know that we are not sitting by idly, waiting for this to hit us and for us to say we’re sorry.”
Still, it would be curious to see if cities can take action over lost revenue because leagues do not play because of a lockout. I wonder, would the city sue the players if the players were on strike?