Memphis TN: Save "Tom Lee" Park, Memphis in May, Riverside Drive

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So many Memphians are voicing their concerns about Tom Lee Park’s proposed remodel. The concerns of Memphians are:

Memphis River Parks Partnership reps have said several times “Memphis in May officials have been involved the entire time”. Yet, here we are in mediation because Memphis In May officials have publicly said that this current design brings many red flags & concerns.  We are petitioning the city to stop any construction/demo until a joint statement is made by MIM / MRPP and until they reach an agreement.  We are petitioning for the City of Memphis to be transparent with the citizens. 

Let's be very clear about this: This isn’t "Memphis Citizens" saying we don’t want to make Tom Lee Park better. We would love to support a new, smart design that allows the park and festivals to co-exist. This is "Memphians" sticking to our history, and our biggest festival and money making weekends of the year. Economic impact far beyond this so claimed “park” boom you speak of. We MUST AND INSIST on a park plan/model that will allow easy flow of people, logistics, safety and convenience for our big MIM events. ANYTHING LESS IS NOT AN OPTION!!! 

We will not be satisfied and will not stop fighting or informing Memphians of these challenges/concerns until they are addressed and MIM/MRPP release a join statement of cooperation and approval.

I look forward to the resolution. And so do our citizens, our history, and the music running through our city’s blood.

And, here's a little background on who the Memphis Park was named after; Tom Lee... On the morning of May 8, 1925, Thomas Lee took a C. W. Hunter Co official down to Helena on the Mississippi River, in the Zev, an open motorboat. Lee was alone on his way back to Memphis that afternoon as two boats, the Choctaw and the M.E. Norman, were on an excursion for engineers and their families to see how the levees were holding up against the springtime high water. The Norman carried 75 people. When it listed to one side and tipped over, many of the engineers were below deck and drowned. Others were thrown into the water and those who could not swim perished. The only witness was Tom Lee. He said later that when he was about half a mile above the Norman, he happened to look back and saw her wheel had stopped and she was leaning over to the right side. When he got to her, she was halfway under. The water was full of people. He started dragging them into his boat. After 3 or 4 trips, Lee had rescued all he could find. He gathered driftwood and started a fire to keep the survivors warm. He took off again under a moonlit night and continued searching. Lee, who could not swim, had saved 32 people, 20 survivors swam or floated to shore, and 23 lost their lives. In 1954, Astor Park, between the Mississippi River and Riverside Drive, was renamed Tom Lee Park. The obelisk monument that told his story has not been replace since it fell in May 2017 in a spring storm but a stunning sculpture of Tom Lee in his boat rescuing the many remains as a tribute to Mr Lee's heroic deed. 

Here's a little back story on the successes of Memphis In May and why we want to stand up and save it:

Memphis in May International Festival has released the economic impact study for the 2017 Festival prepared by Younger Associates, and found the record-setting gross revenue reported for the month also resulted in a record-setting boost to the Memphis area economy. Findings from the economic analysis show a 27% increase over last year’s economic impact of $88 million.

The 2017 Memphis in May International Festival events generated an economic impact of over $111.9 million and supported 1,079 jobs.

“The mission of Memphis in May International Festival has always been to promote and celebrate Memphis culture, foster economic growth, and enhance international awareness through education, so we are pleased to have once again delivered on our mission to positively impact the economic growth of the Memphis area,” said James L. Holt, president and CEO of Memphis in May International Festival.

The study also finds the estimated impact on City of Memphis tax revenues to be over $3 million. As noted in the study, event survey and ticket data revealed that over 94,000 of the month-long festival’s attendees came from more than fifty miles outside the greater Memphis area. This influx of visitors leads to the positive economic impact, rather than a redistribution of existing money to different industries as would happen with an all-local attendance base.

“It is widely recognized that the Memphis in May International Festival plays an important part in the culture of our City, but this study is a reminder of the significant positive economic impact it has on the hospitality and tourism industries, and on the tax coffers of Memphis and the surrounding areas,” said Kristen Wright, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of AutoZone, and 2018 Memphis in May Board Chair.

While Memphis in May annually contributes heavily to the economic health of the City of Memphis, it is important to note that the Festival receives no direct funding from the city or any taxing authority, but rather through support from corporate sponsors, generous donors, and revenue generated by admission and concession sales.
A downloadable copy of the study can be found by clicking here.

Highlights from the 2017 Memphis in May Economic Impact Study
• The 2017 Memphis in May International Festival events highlighted in the study attracted 94,417 visitors from 50 miles outside the greater Memphis area.
• The 2017 Memphis in May International Festival supported 1,079 total local jobs (direct & indirect).
• Total visitor spending created by the 2017 Memphis in May events was $51.6 million, contributing to the nearly $94 million in economic impact from consumer spending.
• Over the course of the event, the Beale Street Music Festival drew an estimated 55,917 guests from more than 50 miles outside the greater Memphis area. It is the largest event associated with the festival in terms of attendance and in size of economic impact on expenditure, earnings, and employment.
• Total spending by non-resident visitors to the 2017 Beale Street Music Festival totaled almost $31 million and created over $55 million in economic impact.
• The 2017 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest drew 35,556 out-of-market guests and supported 361 jobs.
• Total spending by non-resident visitors at the 2017 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest was estimated to be nearly $21 million with over $37 million in economic impact.
• Total attendance by non-resident visitors to 901Fest and the Great American River Run was estimated to be 2,944 with estimated visitor spending of over $196,787.

The majority of direct expenditures and earnings impact was felt in businesses providing accommodation services, but retail, food service and gas stations also had multimillion dollar spending impacts as a result of the festival.

The 2018 festival dates are:
Beale Street Music Festival: May 4-6, 2018
International Week: May 7–13, 2018
World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: May 16-19, 2018
Great American River Run: May 26, 2018
901Fest: May 26, 2018

About Memphis in May
Memphis in May International Festival is a not for profit, community-based organization, whose programs contribute more than $111 million annually in economic impact to the community, foster civic pride, promote awareness of Memphis heritage, and build international relationships and understanding through education. Memphis in May International Festival is the official festival of the City of Memphis, the recipient of nearly 200 prestigious Pinnacle Awards from the International Festival and Events Association, and has been named to Travel+Leisure’s international list of Festivals Worth Traveling For, with the Beale Street Music Festival included as one of the World’s Top Festivals by Fest300, and listed by Forbes as one of “5 Underrated Music Festivals You Should Attend.”

About Younger Associates
Younger Associates is a market research and economic development consulting firm established in 1990. The firm has been recognized by the Economic Development Administration, the International Economic Development Council and other professional associations for the quality of work produced. Their methodology is utilized in courses at the Economic Development Institute and recognized by the International Economic Development Council.

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