School is out for summer and that means that the SEC Baseball Tournament is upon us once again. This tournament has been held in Hoover, Alabama a total of 21 times and has been held there every year since 1998. Recently, reports have emerged that the venue could be changing as the Birmingham suburb’s contract is up after the tournament this year which would allow other cities to bid on hosting it. Cities that are in the running include Hoover, Nashville, Jacksonville and Memphis. Here is why Memphis would be the best option.
Memphis is right smack dab in the middle of SEC country (especially now that there are four teams west of the Mississippi River). There are tons of fans of numerous SEC teams in the Memphis area: Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, LSU. Not only are there tons of SEC fans in Memphis, it’s not too far of a drive from any of those places: 1 hour from Oxford, three from Nashville (where Vanderbilt has one of the better followings in college baseball), four from Starkville, three from Birmingham and two from Little Rock. And while Columbia, Missouri is 6 hours away, Mizzou fans have a reputation for traveling very well. The tournament would also be well attended by local fans who are not affiliated with any SEC team (the Memphis Redbirds are among the better supported AAA clubs).
Memphis also has one of the best baseball stadiums in the country: AutoZone Park. AutoZone Park is frequently voted among the best ballparks in minor league baseball (coming in at #6 last year, it’s been as high as #2). Not only does it have a capacity higher than that of Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (14,384 vs. 10,800) but of every possible venues in the other potential host cities and is already home to the annual Memphis vs. Ole Miss baseball game. It’s right in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of a number of fine hotels and of course it’s just two blocks away from World Famous Beale Street.
One issue that has kept Memphis from hosting this even in the past is the fact that with a downtown stadium there isn’t really a place for all of the fans with RV’s to park. Steps have been taken to remedy this problem. Of course, downtown RV parking still won’t be happening. But what will be done now is to have all fans with RV’s park at Tiger Lane at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (which is a great spot to tailgate during football season, since it was remodeled in 2012). Free shuttles would run continuously while games are being paid going to and from the stadiums.
Memphis has longed for an SEC tournament of some kind to be held in the city, be it basketball or baseball (a basketball tournament would be a wild success, but for whatever reason the Memphis Grizzlies and FedEx Forum seem dead set against it). Having the SEC baseball tournament is Memphis would be beneficial to the city and people of Memphis, the fans of almost all SEC baseball teams who would get to go to a different location for a change, and of course to the SEC.