Friday, February 27, 2004

HOOPS gives the bird to Big Bird at The Pyramid.

HOOPS gives the bird to Big Bird at The Pyramid.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Alan Freeman, manager of The Pyramid, evidently has been courting an agreement with Sesame Street Live to bring Big Bird and company to the parents and children of the Mid-South in September, but an official of HOOPS, the contracting arm of the National Basketball Association Grizzlies, has given the bird to the whole deal. In a letter this week to Chairman Marilyn Loeffel of the Shelby County Commssion, Mike Golub, senior vice president for business operations of HOOPS, said the effort to book the Sesame Street show in The Pyramid in September was prohibited by the operating agreement between HOOPS and local governments and “cannot be tolerated.” Said Golub: “Hoops is working hard to schedule events at FedEx Forum. These efforts are being frustrated by competitive activities by The Pyramid management. Specifically, a representative of VEE Entertainment Corporaiton has informed Hoops that The Pyramid is holding dates in September 2004 for the production of Sesame Street Live and has demanded that FedEx Forum match the terms offered by The Pyramid.” Golub goes on in the letter to argue that this is “in violation” the agreement which brought the Grizzlies to Memphis and which laid the groundwork for building the new FedEx Forrum, scheduled for opening this fall just south of Beale Street downtown. “Hoops demands that the City/County cause the Pyramid and the manager of the Pyramid to immediately cease competitive activity in violation of the Operating Agreement,” Golub writes. “Further, this letter shall serve as a written request for dispute resolution pursuant to Section 34a of the Operating Agreement.” Terms of the operating agreement, signed in 2001 by officials of the city and county and by HOOPS, give HOOPS and Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley first right of refusal on show and contract attractions in the Memphis area. An apparent codicil of the agreement, first brought to public attention within the last few months, mandates that The Pyramid be held in reserve for possible use by HOOPS for a 15-year period. The dispute resolution agreement mentioned by Golub is an aspect of the agreement which also has received more attention of late than it did at the time of the signing. It requires that “[u]pon the written request of a Party, each Party shall appoint a designated representative who does not devote substantially all of his or her time to performance under this Operating Agreement, whose task it will be to meet for the purpose of endeavoring to resolve such dispute.” Shelby County Attorney Bryan Kuhn, in a memo to Shelby Countyy CAO John Fowlkes advises him that the representative designed by HOOPS, Chicago attorney Stan Meadows, may not qualify under the language of the agreement. since Meadows “certainly has devoted a substantial amount of his time to the performance of the Operating Agreement.” Kuhn further advises Fowlkes that the “executive administrative” arm of county government -- i.e., Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton, for whom Fowlkes is chief administrator, can appoint a county representative without needing approval of the county commission within the 20 calendar days provided for resolution of the dispute under the agreement. “This is unbelievably arrogant,” said Commissioner Walter Bailey of the HOOPS action in seeking to force The Pyramid to cease and desist in its efforts to recruit Sesame Street Live. “They’re saying in effect they want us to shut it [The Pyramid] down completely.” Bailey said the FedEx Forum would not even be ready to host an event during the September dates in question.

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