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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

FedExForum – Memphis Grizzlies

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

FedExForum 191 Beale St Memphis, TN 38103

Year Opened: 2004

Capacity: 18,119


Elvis, Tigers, and Grizzlies, oh my!

The FedExForum opened in 2004 as the home of the Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis Tigers. It is owned by the City of Memphis, and replaced The Pyramid as the primary sports and entertainment facility in the city. The arena holds 18,119 in its basketball configuration. It features 27 courtside suites, 32 club suites, four party suites and 80 club boxes. There are two unique features that set it apart from any other NCAA or NBA arena:

1) All entry to the facility comes through the Grand Lobby, an indoor gathering point for fans before the game.

2) The FedExForum is the only themed arena in the NBA.

Memphis is very proud of its musical heritage, and with the arena residing on historic Beale Street, it seems like the perfect venue to salute this heritage. The arena celebrates music in Memphis in a number of ways. The first hint of this is that the plaza outside of the arena is named for B.B. King. Once inside the FedExForum, you will notice a number of exhibits saluting many of Memphis’ musical genres (blues, jazz, rock and roll, country and gospel). These genres are recognized through artwork, murals and educational displays throughout the different zones of the arena. Even the restaurants in the arena carry out the musical theme, as they go by names such as the Blue Note Lounge and the Opus. In addition, the Rock and Soul Museum adjoins the Forum.

The Forum is shared by the NBA Grizzlies and the University of Memphis Tigers. Each receives equal recognition, as the playing surface for each team utilizes the branding and logos of each organization. The FedExForum has played host to a number of major basketball events in its lifetime, including the Conference USA tournament for five years (2004-2009), and three NCAA South Regionals.

Food & Beverage 3

Memphis is known as a “foodie” paradise, and the FedExForum is as proud to show off its food as it is to show off its music. The arena has four seated restaurants (Opus, the Blue Note Lounge, the Horseshoe Club and the Bud Light Bar) in addition to concession stands for Rendezvous BBQ, Rock n’ Dough Pizza, Ghost River Brewing Company and more than 100 generic refreshment areas. While you are eating, you will not miss any of the action, as more than 700 TV monitors are positioned along the concourses and in the restaurants.

The food selections are quite varied and come in large portions. Among the more popular Memphis-style foods are barbecue pork or chicken sandwiches ($9), fried catfish ($7) and chicken tenders with fries ($9.50). Your concession standards include jumbo hot dogs ($5.75), burgers ($8), popcorn ($7), nachos ($5.75), peanuts ($4.75) and cotton candy ($6).

A sampling of beverage prices includes: sodas ($4), bottled water ($4.50), large domestic drafts ($9), large premium drafts ($10), and regular size bottled beers ($8).

The team merchandise at FedExForum is guaranteed to make you happier than the average bear. You will find the main store, The Grizzlies Den, in the Grand Lobby, with smaller souvenir stands located throughout the arena.

Atmosphere 4

The Grizzlies game experience differs from other arenas, in that it is not constructed in the same cookie-cutter design as most facilities in the league. Your first hint of this uniqueness is when you enter through the Grand Lobby; this area is many things – a gathering place, a gallery of art and music, and a history museum on Memphis and its musical heritage. In this area, you will find the team store, the Bud Light Bar and a theater-like marquee announcing the night’s match up. The Grizzlies practice facility can also be seen through a large window in the lobby.

Upon entering the inner arena, you will be amazed by the size of the seating area, which rises five levels above the playing floor. You also notice a continuation of the music theme through the names of the concession areas, exhibits on the varying genres of music in Memphis along the concourses and in much of the signage throughout the arena. The seats in the FedExForum are amongst the most comfortable in the NBA, as they provide you more width and legroom than most NBA facilities. Sight lines are very good, as the height between the rows is more generous, so you are not looking at the back of someone’s head. The scoreboard and video screen are top-rate, as they measure 22 feet high and 38 feet in circumference.

The Grizzlies management does a great job of entertaining you during lulls in the action with contests, live local entertainment from Beale Street performers and the antics of Grizz, the team’s blue bear mascot.

Neighborhood 5

The FedExForum anchors the Beale Street Entertainment District in downtown Memphis. Known as the “Birthplace of the Blues,” Beale Street features more than 30 restaurants, clubs and retail shops within the two-mile length of the street. Such blues legends as B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and Muddy Waters became famous playing these clubs in their youth. In addition to the blues, you’ll also find clubs catering to country, rock and roll and jazz music fans. Among the clubs that are perennial favorites for visitors are B. B. King’s Blues Club, the Blues City Cafe and the Rum Boogie Cafe. Dyer’s Burgers has been a Memphis favorite since 1912, and is an excellent place to enjoy lunch.

Being on Beale Street also means there are a large number of hotels within walking distance of the FedExForum, allowing you to miss some very expensive parking. These include the Doubletree by Hilton, the Crowne Plaza, the Holiday Inn Select and the Westin Memphis Beale Street, which is directly across the street from the Forum. If you are into Memphis tradition and price is no object, book a room at the Peabody, where the famous ducks waddle their way to the lobby fountain each day at 11am and 5pm.

Fans 3

You will find it hard to believe that Memphis is the second-smallest market in the NBA when you hear the noise generated by Grizzlies fans. Basketball is a passion in this area, as the Grizzlies are the only major league professional team in town and the University of Memphis Tigers are often taking part in March Madness at the college level. The fans know the players and the coaches well, as the Grizzlies take a very active role in the community, especially with the world-famous St. Jude Children’s Medical Center just a few blocks away.

Keeping the fans entertained during breaks in the action are Grizz, the team mascot and the dance team, which are known as the Grizz Girls.

Access 3

Finding the FedExForum is not difficult, as signage leading you to it is excellent. Traffic and parking can be extremely difficult. Beale Street is the tourist hub of Memphis, and the street and sidewalks are busy no matter what time of day. In addition, there are only 1,500 parking spaces dedicated to the arena, and they are reserved for season ticket holders and sponsors. There are numerous privately-owned lots nearby, but they charge an average of $25 for special event parking on game nights. The best way to avoid the traffic and parking hassles is to book one of the many hotels within a few blocks of the arena and walk or use one of the ride services such as Uber or Lyft.

The Grand Lobby entryway into the FedExForum is impressive, but it can be a bottleneck before a big game. It is wise to come early to check out the team shop and music-related exhibits. Once inside the actual basketball portion of the building, the accessibility is much improved, as the concourses are wide and easy to navigate. The seating is very comfortable and legroom is excellent. There are five levels of seating within the Forum, but the signage is excellent and the game staff is extremely friendly. You will not have to go far for a restroom or a concession stand, as there are more than adequate numbers of both throughout the facility.

Return on Investment 3

Despite having an arena that holds more than 18,000 fans in the NBA’s second-smallest market, Grizzlies tickets do not come cheap. Prices vary greatly, depending on which of the five levels of the arena you are sitting in. The seats on the lower level in the end zones start at $39, while courtside (not on the floor) seats command a hefty $100 or more. The cheapest seats in the house are only $11 and are in the fifth level of the arena in the end zones. You can often find seats for less on the secondary ticket market if it is not a game against a premiere team. Parking is also limited at FedExForum, as you will be looking at private lots charging up to $20 for a space. You can minimize this cost by staying at one of the many downtown hotels within walking distance of the arena or by using one of the car services. Concessions are more expensively priced than most NBA arenas. There are a number of relatively inexpensive restaurants to choose from on Beale Street just steps from the FedExForum. You might plan a before or after game meal, as these spots stay open well into the night.

Extras 4

The FedExForum is the primary major concert venue in the city of Memphis. Among the musical talent that has performed in the arena are AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Carrie Underwood, Elton John, Justin Timberlake (a Memphis native), Kenny Chesney, the Rolling Stones, Faith Hill and Katy Perry.

Memphis is very aware of its part in the Civil Rights era. During Black Heritage Month (February), the Grizzlies wear special Civil Rights Pride uniforms at each of their home games. The FedExForum is also only a few blocks from the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the former Lorraine Motel, site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

There are a number of major attractions in Memphis in addition to Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum. These include Mud Island River Park along the Mississippi River, Elvis Presley’s Graceland home, Sun Records and the Stax Records Museum and AutoZone Park, home of the Memphis Redbirds.

It may be campy, but Memphis’ Peabody Hotel is famous for its ducks, as they waddle through the lobby to the fountain. The hotel is quite luxurious and expensive, but you do not have to be registered at the hotel to enjoy this longtime Memphis tradition, which occurs at 11am and 5 pm on a daily basis.

Final Thoughts

The Fed Ex Forum does a great job of saluting both the musical heritage of the city of Memphis and the great basketball teams of the city’s past. The concourses are very witty in working in musical references to some of the city’s blues legends, while also featuring photos of some of the top basketball talent to pass through the city.

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