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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

AutoZone Park - Memphis 901 FC


Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

AutoZone Park 200 Union Ave Memphis, TN 38103

Year Opened: 2000 Capacity: 14,320

 

Playing In The Zone

Memphis 901 FC was founded as an expansion team before the 2019 soccer season got underway. The team plays at the Championship level of play within the USL. The first two years of the franchise resulted in losing seasons, but the team posted winning records each of the last two seasons. The home pitch for Memphis 901 is AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis. It opened in 2000 as the home of the AAA Memphis Redbirds baseball team.


The stadium cost a staggering $80.5 million, making it one of the most expensive minor league stadiums in the country. AutoZone Park is built to MLB standards so that it can easily be expanded to meet the requirements of a future major league baseball franchise. The stadium has a capacity of 10,000 for baseball, but it is considerably less for soccer due to the pitch’s configuration on the baseball field.


Food & Beverage 4

The concession stands at AutoZone Park offer a wide variety of food options. American Dog offers multiple types of hot dogs, including the Memphis Dog ($7.50) a Veggie Dog ($5), or a Jumbo Hot Dog ($5). It also offers the typical ballpark fare of cracker jacks ($4.50), peanuts ($5.25), and Coca-Cola brand sodas ($5). The Farm to Fowl stand offers Beale Street Burgers combos ($12), Cheeseburger combos ($7), Black Bean Burger combos ($9.50) a Chicken Tenders combo ($8.75), and a Fish N Chips combo ($12). All combos include a soft drink and fries.


Fans with a sweet tooth can head to the Sweet Treats concession stand. It offers root beer floats ($8) ice cream in a bowl ($8) or a waffle cone ($7) and cotton candy ($5).


Fans looking for an adult beverage can quench their thirst at the Brew House. It offers a wide variety of premium ($11.50 for a 24 oz can) and domestic beers ($10.50 for a 24 oz can) with a wide variety of craft beers ($10.50 for a craft draft or $8.50 for a craft can). The Brew House also sells cocktails ($9.25), margaritas ($11.25), and wine ($8.75).


Atmosphere 0

AutoZone Park is a terrific place to enjoy a baseball game, a soccer match, or an outdoor concert. The developers spent more than $80 million to build the park, making it the most expensive minor league stadium in the country at the time. It is money well spent, as it offers a facility that feels more like a major league stadium.


The exterior of the stadium is brick with lots of ornamental iron. There is a fan plaza outside of the main gates that feature several baseball statues and metal plates of art featuring a stylized stadium. The teams often have a band playing during the pregame or prematch periods. Once inside the stadium, you are behind the home plate for baseball games or a corner kick from the left side of the soccer pitch. The concourse splits in two ways, creating a Y-shaped seating bowl. There is also a second, club-level set of seats. All seats are close to the action, and the concourse is open to the field, so you will not miss any of the action if you head to the concession stand.


The soccer pitch goes down the first base line, which offers the largest set of seats in the stadium. One end of the pitch is designated as the supporter group section, while the other end of the pitch features the Terminix Terrace, a group seating and party area. Towering over the Terminix Terrace is the giant videoboard, which provides event information, replays of the action, and fan contests during breaks in the match. A second, horizontal scoreboard is on the far side of the pitch, featuring sponsors’ information and other match-related info.


Neighborhood 4

AutoZone Park is centrally located in downtown Memphis, with easy access to many of the city’s top tourist attractions. The stadium is located just east of the Cotton Row Historic District and just a few blocks over from Historic Beale Street. Memphis is the third-largest city in Tennessee and has plenty to offer visitors as far as accommodations, great BBQ, and tourist sights.


Beale Street is within walking distance of AutoZone Park. It offers the best in Blues music in several nightclubs along the way. A must-see while in the area is the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum. It is curated by the Smithsonian Institute and offers an in-depth look at the origins of soul/blues music. Although not in the downtown area, no visit to Memphis can be complete until you have paid your respects to Elvis and visited Graceland.


Memphis is known as one of the top BBQ destinations in the World. Restaurants especially known for their BBQ include B.B. King’s Blues Club and Corky’s.


Fans 4

Soccer has been a popular sport in the Memphis area for years before it had a professional team. The youth soccer programs across Western Tennessee attract more than 8,000 participants on an annual basis. The University of Memphis has had very successful men’s and women’s soccer programs for a number of years. It is upon these foundations that Memphis 901 FC has built a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic fanbase.

The primary fanbase is established around the team’s primary supporter group, the Bluff City Mafia. (The City of Memphis is built on a bluff that looks out over the Mississippi River) The group takes part in several aspects of the team’s operation. Its’ primary interest lies in supporting the team, and secondarily serves as a support to the individual players on the team. Many of the international players on Memphis 901 FC have no family in the USA during the segment of the year that they play in Memphis. The supporter group helps them to navigate the local area and create a sense of family by inviting them to group functions. The Bluff City Mafia also creates a tifo, or banner, for each home game. They also work to create signature chants or songs, which are unique to Memphis. They typically will have many drummers that are very active in the organization, as they provide rhythmic drumming throughout the team’s matches. The supporter groups also have a charitable purpose, as they often do fundraisers for a citywide charity or a more specialized set of fundraisers for members of the group that might be going through a serious illness.


Of course, supporter groups are legendary for their socialization purpose. The Bluff City Mafia meets hours before each game at the Brass Door Pub, which is located several blocks from AutoZone Park. At the appointed hour they will march as a large and boisterous group to AutoZone Park through the streets of Downtown Memphis. Upon entering the stadium, they fill aisles 108-112 as the supporter section is located directly behind the goal at the enclosed end of the pitch. They make it very difficult for the opposing goalie to concentrate or communicate with his teammates. The remainder of the crowd is usually made up of college students and youth soccer organizations wearing their colorful kits. For detailed information on the supporter group meetings, please go to www.bluffcitymafia901.com


Memphis 901 FC has four pub partners that host watch parties when the team has a road game. The watch parties take place at Aldo’s Pizza, Silky O’Sullivan’s, Celtic Crossing, and the Ghost River Brewing Company.


Access 4

AutoZone Park is centrally located in the downtown area of Memphis. If you are staying in one of the downtown hotels or in a hotel along the Mississippi River, it is within walking distance of the ballpark.


Memphis also has a Trolley car line that delivers you directly to AutoZone Park. The line has fourteen stops along its route, providing the opportunity to reach your hotel, attractions including Beale Street, the FedEx Forum, the National Civil Rights Museum as well as some terrific BBQ restaurants, all at just a $2.00 cost for a day pass.


There are numerous parking lots surrounding AutoZone Park. They typically have security on-site on nights when an AutoZone Park event is scheduled. They typically charge $10 on match nights.


Once at AutoZone Park, you will find it very easy to navigate. The stadium has an exterior plaza before you go through the security at the gate. This provides you with an excellent place to meet your friends prior to the match. There are multiple gates to enter the actual stadium without delay. The concourse area is atop the lower seating bowl of the stadium. Concourses are wide and are open to the field, so you will find them easy to navigate. The club level can be accessed via an elevator or stairs.


Return on Investment 5

Memphis 901 FC games are very reasonably priced, which is why you see many families in attendance. Tickets start at $13 for General Admission seating behind the goal at the enclosed end of the pitch. The supporter section is considered General Admission seating as well. The lower-level seats along the side of the pitch are priced at $15. End of the field seats at the 200 level of seating cost $26. The most expensive seats are in sections 211-215, as they are priced at $65, but are also all-inclusive for food and beverage.


Getting to a game can be very economical if you use the Trolley system that runs along the bluff and circulates past many of the tourism and lodging locations in the downtown area. A full-day ticket is just $2 for unlimited rides. There are three parking lots adjacent to the stadium. If you get there early, there are metered parking spaces nearby. Meters are free after 6 pm.


Extras 3

AutoZone Park has hosted the AAA All-Star game as well as the AAA National Championship Game.


The videoboard at AutoZone Park is the largest in the MiLB at 60 X 60.


AutoZone Park has been selected as the Minor League Ballpark of the Year on two occasions.


Final Thoughts

AutoZone Park was the most expensive minor league sports facility in the country when it opened in 2000. It has been money well spent, as it offers a major league experience in a minor league park. The Memphis 901 FC opened shop in the USL in 2019 and have drawn very well in their home matches. The pitch alignment on the baseball field allows much of the seating bowl with a very close-up view of the action. In addition, AutoZone Park offers an excellent set of concession stands with a wide variety of food selections. The park also offers a huge scoreboard at the end of the pitch to provide a very clear view of replays and other valuable information. After the match, fans can head over to Beale Street and enjoy the many Blues clubs and the great BBQ restaurants that Memphis is so famous for.




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