The Memphis Grizzlies are planning to announce several upgrades to FedExForum ahead of the start to the 2022-23 NBA season, most notably the addition of a bar within the terrace level of the arena bowl, according to multiple sources familiar with the project.
The sources requested anonymity because no official announcement has been made.
The space will feature standing-room only ticket sales, with fans able to watch Grizzlies and Memphis Tigers games from the east side of the arena opposite the building’s grand lobby, where upper deck seats often sat empty aside from the teams’ biggest games. It is being designed with a younger crowd in mind, in hopes of luring more people living downtown to FedExForum, one person who had been briefed on the team’s thinking told The Commercial Appeal.
This project follows recent trends in arena design around the country as sports franchises find new ways to enhance their gameday viewing experience, especially in non-premium seating areas.
Construction on the terrace level space occurred throughout this offseason and it represents perhaps the most notable renovation to FedExForum since the team installed a new 360-degree, high-definition scoreboard before the 2017-18 season through its partnership with the city of Memphis and Shelby County. It’s unclear how these changes will affect the capacity of FedExForum for basketball games and concerts.
The city of Memphis confirmed that there was no public money used for the improvements made to FedExForum this year. The Grizzlies declined to comment on the impending arena upgrades. The team is expected to make a formal announcement about the arena enhancements in the coming weeks.
The Grizzlies first preseason game is scheduled for Oct. 1 and their first home preseason game at FedExForum will take place on Oct. 3.
This could also be seen as yet another encouraging sign of the organization’s commitment to remaining in Memphis beyond the 2028-29 season, when its initial lease at FedExForum expires.
The Grizzlies, Memphis and Shelby County already agreed in recent months on an amended version of the current lease. Under the renegotiated terms, Memphis and Shelby County will pay up to $43.8 million to the Grizzlies over the next eight NBA seasons — the remainder of the lease. The Memphis and Shelby County Sports Authority will kick in $1 million this year.
If the deal had not been renegotiated, subsidizing the Grizzlies would have cost the city and county $8 million to $9 million a year by the letter of the original lease.
The original lease included a shortfall provision that would’ve required local government to purchase tickets if they fell below a certain threshold. During the nearly fan-less 2020-21 season that could’ve been millions more than what the city and county agreed to.
Both the Grizzlies and Tigers enter this season on the upswing. The Tigers made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014, while the Grizzlies tied a franchise record with 56 regular season wins and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals.