The University of Memphis has announced a transformative $50 million gift from the family foundation of FedEx founder Fred Smith.
The generous donation, the largest in the university’s history, is intended to support the renovation of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium and FedExForum, marking a significant milestone for the city’s sports infrastructure.
Major Donation for Stadium Renovations
The $50 million gift from the Smith family foundation is specifically earmarked for the renovation of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, underscoring the commitment to upgrading and modernizing the city’s sports venues. Richard W. Smith, speaking on behalf of the Smith family, emphasized the importance of these improvements for Memphis as a hub for entertainment, economic growth, and increased employment.
Simultaneously, the City Council introduced a resolution to allocate and appropriate $120 million in state funding for the Liberty Stadium project. The resolution also proposes the transfer of ownership of the stadium to the University of Memphis Auxiliary Services Foundation, a move that, if approved, will take effect on December 30.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland expressed his satisfaction with the developments, highlighting that the remaining $230 million in state funding would be directed towards the Memphis Grizzlies.
The University of Memphis Receives $50 Million Gift
Strickland emphasized ongoing negotiations to secure a long-term deal that would keep the Grizzlies in Memphis for an additional 25 years. The current lease for FedExForum with the Grizzlies is set to expire in 2029.
Mayor-elect Paul Young voiced his support for the stadium deal, emphasizing the community’s gratitude for someone willing to contribute $100 million towards the project.
Young underscored the significance of turning the stadium, considered a financial liability, into an asset for the community. The collaborative effort involving the city and the university is seen as a win-win for Memphis.
University president Bill Hardgrave highlighted the university’s strategic focus on better positioning itself for conference realignment prospects.
Acknowledging the importance of upgrading Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, Hardgrave emphasized that discussions with other conference leaders emphasized the need for the university’s facilities to match the standards required for competitive positioning.
The University of Memphis’s historic $50 million gift, coupled with the proposed state funding and ownership transfer for Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, signals a transformative moment for the city’s sports infrastructure.
As Memphis aims to enhance its status as an entertainment destination and secure its position in conference realignment discussions, these developments mark a crucial step towards achieving these ambitious goals.
The collaboration between the university, the city, and the philanthropic contribution from the Smith family sets the stage for a promising future for Memphis’ sports landscape.