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  • Writer's pictureMichael Davis

FedEx Forum - Memphis Tigers

Photos by Michael Davis, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

FedExForum 191 Beale St Memphis, TN 38103

Year Opened: 2004

Capacity: 18,119


Memphis Tigers Basketball

FedExForum is a multi-purpose arena near the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis. The Memphis Tigers began playing in FedExForum on November 11 vs. Savannah State, replacing their former nearby home The Pyramid. The University of Memphis is one of three schools to play its home games in an NBA arena, but the Tigers are the only basketball program to share the facility with their NBA partner, the Memphis Grizzlies, but the Tigers do have their own locker room/lounge area inside the venue.

The city of Memphis owns FedExForum, which brings numerous events to downtown Memphis. The seating capacity of FedExForum for basketball is 18,119 but the facility can reach 19,000 for concerts. The Memphis Tigers and FedEx Forum will host the American Athletic Conference Tournament in 2019, and the facility also hosted the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament from 2005 to 2009.

FedExForum was also the site of the South regional semifinals and finals in the 2009, 2014, and 2017 editions of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, as well as one of the four regional finals during the 2010 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Food & Beverage 3

FedExForum is home to the NBA’s Memphis Grizzles, which is positive and negative for fans attending a Memphis Tigers game. The positive is that the concessions are better quality than most college venues, but the negative is the higher concessions prices.

The usual fare such as hot dogs, peanuts, pretzels, popcorn, candy, waffle fries, and nachos are relatively on the same price level as other venues at between $3 and $6 per item, with the best value out of these snacks being the bottomless popcorn at a slightly higher cost of $7.25.

In addition to the above items, FedExForum also has some local Memphis cuisine influence in the form of local vendors Memphis Burrito and Charlie Vergos Rendezvous. All burritos are $10 including bowls, and at Charlie’s, there is BBQ, with pork or chicken in a sandwich at $9.25, or the nachos version for $10. Charlie’s also serves a vegetarian nacho option for $9.50.

Pepsi-Cola is the soft drink provider featured inside FedExForum, with Aquafina bottled water and regular sodas costing $5, and the much larger souvenir soda at $8; soda choices include Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sierra Mist, Lipton tea, and Mountain Dew. FedExForum also serves alcoholic beverages, and beer choices are plentiful throughout the arena. The stands serve classic domestic drafts of Bud Light, Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Michelob Ultra priced at $8 for the regular draft, while the larger drafts are $10. A large premium can of beer costs $11.

The best place inside FedExForum for alcohol is Ghost River Brewing Co. The brewing company serves outstanding craft beer for between $10 and $11.50 per glass, along with other alcohol such as wine and cocktails – the wine is $10 per glass while the cocktails cost $11 for a single or $18 for a double.

Other eateries inside FedExForum that can serve alcohol are the four sit-down restaurants Opus, the Blue Note Lounge, the Horseshoe Club, and the Bud Light Bar; having these options for alcohol in addition to the regular concessions stands is the advantage of having an NBA arena as your home venue.

Atmosphere 3

FedExForum doesn’t provide the feeling of being at a college basketball game – the large arena feels more like the NCAA tournament site arenas, especially when only half the seats are filled. But the biggest difference from being at an NCAA tournament venue is that there is a sea of Memphis Blue throughout the arena instead of various colors representing multiple teams. The Memphis Tigers and FedExForum have the potential to be an outstanding college basketball atmosphere, but currently, the atmosphere meets normal expectations.

The Memphis band sets up on the baseline behind one of the baskets where the student section is (Section 118), while the Memphis cheer squad lines up on the end line by the band; the Memphis dance team is situated on the baseline running down the court. Before player introductions, the team gets introduced with a very flashy video tribute that lasts around two minutes, with the lights dimmed in the arena. The rest of the atmosphere depends on the Memphis fans and the action during the game.

Memphis fans are knowledgeable, but lately, their presence has been missing in providing the atmosphere that college basketball features over the NBA. That said, the atmosphere at FedExForum has to be provided by the game day operations crew – the Memphis mascot Pouncer and the Memphis spirit squads provide plenty of entertainment to keep the fans engaged and excited during the game.

The spirit squads are seen regularly at college games, but the Memphis Cheerleaders are the 2019 NCAA National Champions in Cheerleading. The Memphis band also plays music, and there are also t-shirt tosses and the typical but well-deserved recognitions of other U of M athletes and teams during timeouts, for excellence in their sports.

Neighborhood 5

FedExForum is located just off historic Beale Street, and a great neighborhood doesn’t get more convenient than that. The 1.8-mile long street is significant to Memphis’ history and the blues, and there are plenty of Blues clubs and restaurants to visit for fans that are attending events at FedExForum.

There are several enticing dining options in Miss Polly’s Soul City Café, a tasty soul food restaurant that is open for breakfast and lunch. Another restaurant that provides live blues entertainment while dining is B.B. King’s Blues Club; the breakfast menu here is very good, but add in the live music and the dining experience becomes elite.

Hard Rock Café is also a popular restaurant on Beale Street, located across the street from the bronze Elvis statue. For Elvis fans on Beale Street, check out Lansky Brothers; the “Clothier to The King.” Lansky Brothers became not only the clothier to Elvis, but other clients included B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Isaac Hayes, and Johnny Cash.

Right next to FedExForum is the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and the Gibson Guitar Factory Museum. However, although Beale Street provides a great tourist location for fans, the most famous tourist spot for people traveling to Memphis is about 8.5 miles south, near the Memphis Airport: Graceland. Graceland is the former home of Rock ‘N Roll legend Elvis Presley.

Being a downtown arena, FedExForum has plenty of lodging options as well. Across the street from the venue is Westin Memphis-Beale Street, and the Hampton Inn & Suites-Memphis and DoubleTree Memphis are both within walking distance of the arena and Beale Street.

Alternatively, if you want to make your visit to Memphis memorable, staying at the Memphis icon Hotel Peabody is a great choice. The hotel is currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, but even if you choose not to stay here, they offer $10 Hotel History Tours with the Peabody Duck master – this one-hour tour is a trip back in time for the “South’s Grand Hotel.”

Fans 4

Memphis basketball fans are one of the most loyal fan bases in college basketball. The fans travel very well during the NCAA tournament, but the Memphis basketball program hasn’t had much success on the court, which is hurting the attendance figures at FedExForum. Fans have a real challenge on their hands to get the gigantic FedEx Forum loud enough to make a huge impact.

A decade ago, Memphis fans filled FedExForum with an average of 16,993 fans per game, yet in a short period, the attendance has fallen. Two seasons ago the average attendance was listed at 9,622, which isn’t bad for schools with small venues such as SMU’s Moody Coliseum, but in an 18,000-seat arena, the fans here get lost in space. Last season (2018) the average attendance declined again to 6,225, so some might say that Memphis fans are bandwagon fans, but everyone loves a winner.

Nevertheless, these fans are a loyal group, knowledgeable, and involved with their team. They are also passionate, so once the program gets back to winning on the court, the attendance will rise, and the fans that are supporting the Tigers will be rewarded for their devotion to Memphis Basketball.

Access 3

A disadvantage to a downtown arena is the city traffic, which is worse at FedEx Forum on weekday nights than during weekend games. However, the facility is next to the tourist hub of Beale Street, so there is plenty of signage to get you to the neighborhood.

The parking can be tricky though as the 1,500 parking spaces at FedExForum’s Gossett Motors Parking Garage are sold on a season basis for Memphis Tigers games – there are two entrances to the garage, both of which are on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue between B.B. King Boulevard and Fourth Street.

There are other parking options next to FedExForum as well, and several other parking lots and decks within a quarter-mile radius of the arena. Parking prices can be anywhere from $5 to $20, depending on the crowd size and buzz of the game.

If you are staying overnight in Memphis, the best suggestion would be to stay at one of the many hotels within a few blocks of the arena. A walk-or-ride service would be a great way to avoid learning the FedEx Forum parking scene. For those that can make a day visit from the airport, Uber is the best way to get to the game with a cost of $17 to $20 not including gratuity for service.

FedExForum’s main entrance features a 35,000-square-foot outdoor plaza near the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. Fans will need to go through metal detectors here, but the concourses are extremely wide and easy to navigate, making it easy to access this arena.

There is also plenty of signage all over the interior to direct fans to seat, concessions, restrooms, and other areas of interest. The seats have plenty of legroom and it is easy to maneuver through the aisles. There are also more than an adequate number of concession stands and restrooms throughout the facility.

Return on Investment 3

Memphis basketball single-game tickets range between $7 and $50 per ticket. The upper-level seating is $7 to $12 which is low for Division 1 college basketball, but the ticket prices become on par with other programs if you want to sit in the lower bowl of FedExForum. The prices for seats in the lower sections increase to between $42 and $50 per set, while the concessions keep the NBA’s Memphis Grizzles prices, which are more than other college venues that are on campuses.

Add the cost of parking, and a trip to FedExForum become a little higher than other college basketball ventures. However, there are ways to maximize your ROI by purchasing the upper-level seating and by eating before or after the game, especially with Beale Street just outside the arena. If your trip is planned with saving money in mind, the ROI can improve.

Extras 4

FedExForum’s s interior is immaculate and designed to pay tribute to Memphis’ musical heritage. Paintings and murals are depicting some of the city’s most famous artists, such as Justin Timberlake, Elvis Presley, and B.B. King. Also, credit FedExForum for being the first arena to utilize new “see-through” shot clock units, which allow spectators seated behind the basket to see the action without having the clocks interfere with their view.

There are also nine Tigers jerseys hanging from FedExForum’s rafters covering over 96 years of Memphis Tigers basketball. These jerseys belong to Win Wilfong, John Gunn, Larry Finch, Ronnie Robinson, Keith Lee, Elliot Perry, Forest Arnold, Larry Kenon, and current Memphis Head Coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.

Final Thoughts

FedExForum is a beautiful structure that provides all the amenities that sports fans crave, and the arena is in the footstep of Memphis’ touristy Beale Street, providing college basketball fans with an experience that other campus arenas can’t provide before or after the game. The Memphis Tigers have a beautiful basketball facility, and any college basketball fan should visit FedExForum for a Tigers game.

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