ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals now own their top minor-league team.
The Cardinals on Friday closed on the purchase of the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds from Fundamental Advisors LP, the sole bondholder of the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation. As part of the deal, the city of Memphis, Tenn., acquired AutoZone Park and will lease the stadium to the Cardinals.
The financial terms of the purchases and the lease agreement for the stadium were not disclosed.
The timing of Friday’s announcement was on target: The defending National League championship were scheduled to play an exhibition game against the Redbirds at AutoZone Park on Friday night as the Cardinals prepare for Monday’s season-opener in Cincinnati.
The Redbirds drew more than 800,000 fans when the ballpark opened in 2000, but attendance has dipped to less than 500,000 in recent seasons.
"We are pleased to finalize the purchase of the Redbirds and are looking forward to a long-term partnership with the city of Memphis," Cardinals chairman and CEO William DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. "Finalizing this deal represents a positive move toward stability of professional baseball in Memphis."
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said the deal ensures "the future of the Redbirds and AutoZone Park for decades to come," and will allow for continued revitalization of downtown Memphis.
The Cardinals said the purchase agreement includes a significant investment in AutoZone Park to add "state-of-the-art features and fan-friendly amenities to the ballpark." Messages left seeking information about those improvements were not immediately returned.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that terms of the deal presented to the city council in January call for the city-backed Center City Revenue Finance Corp. to issue $24 million in bonds. The money would fund both the purchase of the stadium and some improvements.
The Cardinals also own three other minor-league affiliates: Class A and Rookie League teams that both play in Jupiter, Fla., and Class AA Springfield in southwest Missouri.