Monday update

Over the weekend plans for the redesign of Tom Lee Park were released to the public. The plan converts the park from a big, open field along the river to a series of zones, each inviting in its own way. However, the folks who organize Memphis in May released a statement saying they fear the park’s redesign will hurt the festival’s revenue.

I want to take a minute to give my reaction to this. First of all, the renderings look beautiful, and I think the Memphis River Parks Partnership has a great vision for this woefully under-utilized asset. Also, I want to commend WREG for the coverage they did in the link above. Too often news station’s website posts tend to be in sound bites. WREG’s post was quite thorough and I appreciate it.

Will the park redesign affect park capacity, stage locations, customer experience during Music Fest? Someone other than I would be more qualified to answer. I’ve never been a Music Fest guy.

However, I’ve been on a BBQ Fest team for 13 years, and I have to tell you, I can’t see the same number of team booths fitting into that park under the new design, not even if the booths spill over onto Riverside. There’s just no way. In the current configuration, nearly every square foot of space is occupied by teams, vendors, or Memphis in May temporary headquarters. If you add trees, rolling hills, etc., you lose some of that space.

It’s very possible Memphis in May will have no choice but to reduce the number of teams allowed to compete, given the new park configuration. Some teams that previously got in might find their applications rejected. Now, the good news is, I doubt that would happen to my team. We got a top 10 finish in shoulder last year out of 59 teams, so we’ve proved our merit. Also, as frequent top 3 finishers in Best Booth, Memphis in May likes us because photos of our booths are good to use in marketing materials.

However, what would likely happen is application fees would go up, possibly way up, and we’d have to figure out how to pass along those costs. We haven’t set our dues for this year yet – we are having a meeting on Sunday to figure that out – but last year we charged $390 for an individual, or $580 for a couple (must be an established real-life couple). I’ve been told those dues are relatively inexpensive for a “big three” category (ribs, shoulder, or whole hog) team. What if we had to raise our dues to, say, $750, to be able to compete? At some point the cost increase would cause us to start losing members.

Or, we might have to make different deals with sponsors. One thing about us is that we’ve always managed to find sponsors who want to party with us, rather than order us around or take over our booth. A lot of teams have a dedicated “sponsor night,” usually in prime time, where team members and their guests are not allowed in their own booth except for members who are either cooking or serving their sponsors. I have witnessed first-hand how that kills other teams’ morale.

So yeah, as relates to my own personal BBQ experience, I am concerned about the upcoming changes to the park. However, I also recognize that I am extremely privileged to be able to pay hundreds of dollars and take a week’s vacation to participate in what is basically spring break for adults. There are hundreds of thousands of Memphians who can’t, and it’s just as much their park as it is mine. I also recognize the absurdity of having this wonderful asset, this front door to the river, and fully capitalizing on it only 8 days a year (3 days Music Fest + 4 days BBQ Fest + 1 day 901 Fest). It needs to be a resource that is used all the time, that taps into Memphis’ identity as a river city.

One thing’s for sure… change comes whether you want it to or not, and all you can do is be ready for it and embrace it.

Since I’m on here spouting off my opinion this morning, I want to talk about a couple of trade deals involving the Grizzlies that were rumored over the weekend.

It’s been said that the Utah Jazz have offered Ricky Rubio and their 2019 first-round pick to the Grizzlies in exchange for Mike Conley. The Jazz would have to throw in a couple of expiring contracts to make the salary match (Conley makes $30 million, Rubio $15 million). I don’t hate this idea but I dislike it a little more than I like it. Having Conley’s $30 million off the books would allow the Grizz to make some moves in free agency this summer, and I’ve always thought Rubio would be an interesting fit here in Memphis. However, he wouldn’t be as good a fit as Conley is. People say Conley and Gasol are past their primes, and while I would agree on Gasol (age 34) I would not on Conley (age 31). I think he has some All-Star caliber games left in him.

Also, the Utah pick is currently projected to be 19th in what is considered not a very deep draft. There’s still value to be found in that area of the draft, but Memphis’ front office is not good at seeing it. Remember 2011, when the Grizzlies had a pick in the early 20s? Draymond Green was still on the board, but Memphis selected Tony Wroten. How’d that work out? So yeah, I’d prefer to keep Mike Conley. If Utah could involve a third team to send Memphis a better draft pick (top 14), then maybe.

The other deal I hear is being floated is, Houston gets JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple, and Memphis gets Brandon Knight and a first-rounder. Getting a first, even a late first, for two role players on expiring contracts is excellent. I like JaMyke a lot but he became expendable the day Jaren Jackson Jr. got here. He deserves to be in a spot where his abilities are needed more, and where he can chase for a ring. I would do this one.

Man that Super Bowl sucked. It was like watching 60 minutes of the Grizzlies playing themselves in the third quarter. I would bet the only people who enjoyed that game were people had the numbers 0 or 3 in the squares game.

MIFA is having a Family Day of Service on Monday, February 18. Register here and get your kids the experience of helping others at an early age. Meet at 910 Vance at 9:30 AM that day and you’ll be sent out to deliver meals for the homeless. After the deliveries, volunteers will re-convene at MIFA headquarters for pizza and to share their experiences.

Want to catch some games at AutoZone Park featuring Memphis’ soccer team Memphis 901 FC, but won’t be able to make it to all the games? No problem. The team has a 7 game flex ticket pack that will accommodate your schedule. Tickets start at $16. You pick two of their top 6 matches this season, and then pick 5 other matches.

Bluff City Mafia, the group of rabid fans that will support Memphis 901 FC, has revealed its perks of membership. $25 gets you a scarf, a sticker, priority seating in the supporters’ section, discounts at the Brass Door on game days, and a few other perks. Initial members will be taken at the launch party at the Brass Door this Saturday.

Sitting here watching the Local 24 weather with meteorologist Chelsea Chandler as I type this. The forecast is for temperatures in the 60s and 70s until Thursday morning, when we might see some ice on the back end of a cold front. Yep that’s my Memphis!

An event called MagicFest comes to the Cook Convention Center February 15-17.

Teach901 is having an educator job fair tomorrow night at Crosstown Concourse from 6 to 8 PM.

Elisa Sun and Blackwater Trio will perform at the Brass Door on Valentine’s Day. $5 cover gets you into The Cavern where they will be performing. Valentine’s Day is on a Thursday this year, so it will also be Steak Night.

That’s it for now. Back tomorrow with more news.