The Redbirds played their initial two seasons at Tim McCarver Stadium before moving into state-of-the-art AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis, where they have remained the last 13 seasons. When AutoZone opened in 2000, its $80.5 million cost set a new record high for a minor league stadium.
Memphis has won two PCL championships, in 2000 and 2009, and had one other playoff club, in 2010. After four consecutive winning seasons, the 2012 Redbirds limped home with a .396 winning percentage (57-87). Only the 2007 club (.389) was worse. Those are the two worst Cardinals Triple-A clubs in at least the last half-century.
This announcement means the Cardinals' relationship with the Redbirds and the City of Memphis will reach 17 consecutive years at the conclusion of the extension in 2014.
However, the Redbirds ownership future remains cloudy. The debt load incurred from the building of AutoZone Park aggravated by high operations costs led to a default on bond payments. As a result, an investment house, Fundamental Advisors LP, took financial control of the team and facility.
Earlier, in late 2008, the Cardinals announced a letter of intent to explore purchasing the Redbirds, but backed out due to the muddled financial situation. The club remains for sale and is operated by a facilities management firm owned by media giant Comcast, Global Spectrum. The firm has received good marks for tightening operations.
These player development agreements are always executed in even-year blocks and bind the organizations to provide players and field staff. The Cardinals own their franchises in Springfield, Palm Beach, Johnson City, Gulf Coast League and Dominican Summer League.
Like Memphis, St. Louis' contracts with Class-A Quad Cities and short-season Class-A Batavia are up this month and could also be extended. However, the organization now has the right to explore alternatives if they so choose.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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