By Joey Garrison
By the time Bruce Miller arrived in Memphis in the late 1990s, a long-neglected stretch along downtown’s Union Avenue had already been pegged as the home for a new Triple-A minor league baseball stadium.
All it needed was some blueprints — a plan, a vision.
Working in tandem with a local architecture firm, Miller led Kansas-City based HOK Sport’s role in designing what would become Auto Zone Park, home of the Memphis Redbirds, still the most expensive minor league stadium ever, a city-assisted investment that baseball and urban enthusiasts say provided a needed jolt to decaying downtown Memphis since its 2000 opening. Condos with spectacular field views flank the outfield walls. A hotel and restaurants occupy previously forgotten real estate. A retail center known as Peabody Place popped up just down the street. Inside the ballpark, fans swarmed to the seats, though attendance has since dropped.
“At the time we first came to Memphis, it was pretty rough,” Miller told The City Paper, recalling the stretch of parking lots and ramshackle buildings now occupied by Auto Zone Park. “It was a rundown area of town, not perceived to be all that safe, and pretty downtrodden economically. I think the ballpark certainly changed that perception. READ MORE