The World Around Us 

Central High School is in line for $3.5 million in private donations if alumni can pull off an ambitious fund-raising campaign announced last week at the Midtown school, parts of which were built in 1909.

Dr. Tom Stern, Central alumnus and former school board member, said an anonymous donor has pledged $500,000 as a challenge grant. Stern wants to raise the money in just 90 days. It will help build a sports complex to replace Crump Stadium - though the stadium's gates and iron fence will stay - and to make various improvements to the school. The private fundraising campaign is possibly the largest ever undertaken for a single public school in Memphis. Central was known as "the high school" in its glory days. Stern said the funding campaign will tap alumni of other schools such as Northside and Hamilton that will use the sports facilities but is mainly aimed at Central's alumni.

n Does the International Paper story have legs?

Reaction in the national (and Nashville) media was generally ho-hum to the announcement that IP will move its headquarters to Memphis from Connecticut. The New York Times gave it 100 words in a Reuters story which said the move was "not a surprise." There were also brief mentions in The Wall Street Journal and CNN Daybreak. Smaller papers used the Associated Press version, which said the move was "another blow to Connecticut's economic image." Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen gave a hearty cheer ("this will do so much for the visibility of Memphis"), but the Nashville Tennessean didn't produce a story. Dexter Muller, interim president of the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that the city "will get a lot of mileage out of this." Memphis, he noted, ranks 45th among 50 markets in terms of the state and local tax burden. Stamford, Connecticut - IP's former home - ranks first. Muller said IP is a better catch for Memphis than Dell Computer was for Nashville because of corporate citizenship and higher wages.

n The Mud Island Amphitheater is back on the concert scene. The Def Leppard concert was a sellout, and promoters expect another sellout for Kelly Clarkson this weekend. In all, eight concerts are scheduled for 2005.

Revenue from special events helped the Riverfront Development Corporation show a surplus of $267,407 for parks operations for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005. The RDC also slashed employee expenses at the riverfront parks, saving $153,000. The surplus is notable because the nonprofit RDC claims to maintain its parks with the same dollars formerly allotted to the Memphis Park Commission.

RDC president Benny Lendermon this week unveiled the latest drawings of the Beale Street Landing at the foot of Tom Lee Park. The $27 million project, scheduled for completion in 2008, will include a restaurant - something currently missing on the five miles of sidewalks along the river. Briefly taking note of the Confederate-themed parks controversy, Lendermon said, "We hope it will go away."

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