MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA. That’s led to some sold out games this year at the Grindhouse.
WREG spent months trying to get answers from FedExForum management about ticket sales. The team’s front office has now done a 180 and opened up about why they’re so secretive and why they claim withholding information really helps the public.
The Grizzlies are the hottest ticket in town and have one of the best records in the NBA. The team’s success on the court also means success in the business office.
“Given how many concerts events we bring in, how the Grizzlies are doing, how many tickets we’ve been selling that the building is generating a lot of revenue so the bonds are being paid off,” Jason Wexler, president of business operations, said.
Wexler is happy to show off recent upgrades made to the 10-year-old building, but facts and figures of how many tickets are made available is proprietary information. It’s why the Grizzlies say they denied WREG’s public information request in November.
Wexler calls the Grizzlies a private company and says hiding certain info keeps scalpers from taking advantage of the public.
“The scalpers and the secondary market and those folks aren’t coming in and raiding our information to snag tickets and jack up prices on the public,” Wexler said.
The Grizzlies right to hold back information was spelled out in a contract long before construction ever began on the building. The contract gave the Grizzlies the right to operate the public’s $250 million investment as they saw fit.
WREG found out the Public Building Authority that actually owns the property also has no say in operations. Members appointed by the city and county mayors serve six-year terms and haven’t been active participants since the doors opened in 2004. Last month’s meeting revealed there’s just $32 left in the PBA’s bank account.
“Most of our powers were during the construction,” State Rep. Larry Miller, a PBA member, said.
The board must exist by law because you the taxpayer still owe banks the money. However, you and the authority have no say or oversight in what the Grizzlies do inside the building to make sure the bonds are paid off.
“Do you trust that the decisions they make are in the best interest of the taxpayers who helped build it,” WREG asked.
Miller replied, “I would certainly hope so. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary.”
Wexler said, “We’re responsible for the day to day operations and maintenance. If the building wasn’t being operated successfully, there would be some concerns about that.”
Wexler says you haven’t heard any concerns – and you won’t – because the Grizzlies are making enough money for maintenance, upkeep, and to pay bills. Revenue comes from filling seats and, with the stellar year the Grizzlies are having, there are fewer and fewer empty ones to come by.
Some publicly funded venues like Bridgestone Arena in Nashville are very open about the information they give out. However, LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play, is not as inclined to offer up info on its operations.