U of M Booster Condemns Stadium Proposal 

Mayor Herenton's proposed new football stadium drew its first major opposition late Monday night from Harold Byrd, the well-connected University of Memphis booster and Bank of Bartlett president. In a letter to U of M president Shirley Raines, Byrd likened the proposal to a series of bad ones over the years that have involved "off-campus" sports arenas.

Byrd's letter reads as follows:

Dear President Raines,

I am out of town and have just learned of a proposal to build a new Football Stadium on the Fairgrounds Complex, which would serve as the primary arena for the University of Mphs, the Liberty Bowl, and The Southern Heritage Classic.

The University of Memphis and its entire constituency (which is all of the Greater Memphis Area) should be greatly troubled by this proposal.

Poor decisions lacking vision have continually been made in Memphis historically regarding construction of sports arenas.  This started with the Liberty Bowl and Coliseum being built "off campus" in 1965.  Over the past 40 years,  when the University of Memphis had the option to fight for "on campus" facilities, the University selflessly gave in to the supposed overall good of the community resulting in facilities first being built on the Fairgrounds in 1965 rather than on the University campus.

The University gave up its rightful claim for a new arena in 1982 and the "20 million Jobs Conference Tenn State Grant Monies"  and instead worked with Legislators (including myself) for the monies to be allocated to the Orpheum, Beale Street, Agricenter, and the downtown Marriott Hotel.

Then came the ill conceived "on the cheap" expansion of the Liberty Bowl approximately 15 years ago from 50000 to 61000 seats  rather than building a new 1st class football arena. This poor decision probably led to  the loss of a pro football franchise for the City.

Next came the ill conceived location and underfunded Pyramid causing it to be NBA unacceptable from its inception. 

All of these "vision-less" decisions were financially disastrous for the taxpaying community of Memphis and extremely hurtful to the University of Memphis.

The University has been the Primary Tenant of all the aforementioned facilities and the "reason and purpose" for which all were built.

Thus, if the proposed new football facility is being built with an NFL football franchise in mind, downtown would be the best location just as the FedEx Forum was for the Grizzlies.  The Forum is the only 1st class sports facility that has been built right and located in the right place in Memphis' history. 

If the proposed new football stadium facility is being built for the University of Memphis Tiger football team, it should be built "on campus".  Almost all major Universities including UT, Ole Miss, and Arkansas have on campus football and basketball arenas.

Its time for the University to stand up and be counted and look out for its own best interests....which by the way is also in the entire community's best interests as well, including the Liberty Bowl and the Southern Heritage Classic.

Had the correct decisions been made over the years, the University would have 1st class football and basketball facilities on campus. Instead, the University and unfortunately disgruntled taxpayers drive by a deteriorating Liberty Bowl Stadium and mothballed Pyramid.

Oh-- to have-- both of these facilities "on campus" at the University of Memphis!  Now we are facing possibly tearing both down.  How many Universities in the country would "die to have" either or both on their campus  

There have been some real "mess ups" in the past.  "We"-- meaning particularly the University of Memphis and the taxpayers-- shouldn't have to pay for any more mistakes.

Respectfully submitted,

Harold Byrd

Harold W. Byrd
Bank of Bartlett / Bartlett Mortgage
Vice Chairman / President

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