Nashville mayor Phil Bredesen is trying to sell Memphis on t
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Nashville mayor Phil Bredesen is trying to sell Memphis on the benefits of the Houston Oilers moving to Tennessee’s capital city.
``I’m not trying to say it’s just as good for Memphis as it is for Nashville. I genuinely believe it’s very good for the state of Tennessee and for the other cities in the state of Tennessee,″ Bredesen said Tuesday. ``And certainly, as the other major city in the state of Tennessee, I think Memphis stands to benefit.″
Memphis sports boosters have sought an NFL team for more than 20 years, and the possibility of the Oilers moving to Nashville is less than joyful news to some Memphis residents.
Bredesen made his pitch for Memphis support at a Rotary luncheon where he was introduced by club member Barney DuBois.
``The club did have some trouble in finding someone to make this introduction today,″ DuBois said, adding that he agreed to the job on one condition.
He then donned a pair of plastic glasses with a fake nose and mustache.
Bredesen, who laughed along with the rest of the crowd, said later that the stunt helped lighten the mood and make his presentation easier.
His proposal would bring the Oilers to Nashville in 1998. The team has two years left on its stadium deal in Houston, but might be able to get out of it early, he said.
``If the team comes early, and I think there’s a chance they would want to, their preference would be to try to find someplace to play (in Memphis),″ he said.
Bredesen said he expects, perhaps as early as this week, to sign a tentative agreement with Oilers owner Bud Adams outlining the conditions of the move.
No agreement will be final, he said, until the Oilers sign a lease on a Nashville stadium. That could take place next March.
``There are lots of ways for both parties to get out between now and the time the formal lease is signed,″ he said.
The proposal, including a new stadium, would cost more than $290 million.
It would be funded primarily through a bond issue and the sale of luxury seats and the rights to buy season tickets. The city council in Nashville and the state Legislature must give their approval.
The Oilers have been in Houston since 1959, when they were a charter member of the old American Football League, which later merged with the NFL.
While Bredesen said the Oilers might want to play temporarily in Memphis, the Mad Dogs of the Canadian Football League have exclusive rights for professional football in the city’s 63,000-seat stadium.
Mad Dogs manager Pepper Rodgers said he has not talked with the Oilers or anyone else about sharing the stadium or giving up the lease to it.
``I think it would be financially impossible for both of us to play together,″ Rodgers said. ``Our lease would hurt them and their playing would hurt us.″
The Mad Dogs struggled with low attendance in their inaugural season this year and have until Dec. 1 to tell the CFL if they plan to play a second season.
``As we speak, I expect the Mad Dogs to be back,″ Rodgers said.
But he said he and majority team owner Frederick Smith are willing to talk about ``what’s best for everybody.″
``If Bud Adams calls up and says `We’d like to play in Memphis. Can we sit down and talk?′ Yes sir, we’d be delighted to sit down and talk,″ Rodgers said.