Liberty Park's Memphis Sports and Events Center lining up events for 2023 and beyond

Corey Davis | Memphis Business Journal

A facility envisioned as a slam dunk in the indoor youth sports and tourism industry was recently unveiled to the public.

The long-anticipated, 227,000-square-foot Memphis Sports and Events Center (MSEC) at Liberty Park on the old Mid-South Fairgrounds received a community spotlight on Dec. 10.

The MSEC will also include a full-service café and concessions, VIP suites, and a variety of other amenities such as a parkour ropes course and esports center, both of which should be operational in Q1 2023.

Antonio Perez, the MSEC's general manager, said the facility is set to have a staff of 12 full-time employees and around 50 part-time workers operating the building.

“I feel this facility is going to be a total game changer,” Perez said. “We get to serve the community locally, but then from a national perspective, we are candidates to get events we were never able to otherwise. We’re now talking to major operators in every sport, which we can finally host here in Memphis.”

John Wack, president of Virginia-based Eastern Sports Management (ESM), the firm managing the MSEC, said that though the facility is open, there is still work to do to finish completing the building due to supply chain and labor shortages.

Nonetheless, sporting activities are set to begin in the facility, starting with the annual Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM) Classic to be held Dec. 17-22; that youth basketball tournament has, in the past, attracted more than 100 teams. Perez said the MAM Classic will break in the facility. However, he noted the first official event hosted by the MSEC will be The Tip-Off youth basketball tournament from Jan. 7-8.

Wack noted the MSEC has 50 events across 10 sports currently booked in 2023, with the majority going through the middle of summer. He said there will be some weekends where two booked events will be going on simultaneously on each side of the building, highlighting the scale of the MSEC.

“Just looking at the first half of 2023, we will have an event every single weekend,” Wack said. “We also going to have local folks playing on these courts every Monday through Thursday, and our programming, such as leagues, clinics, and lessons, all start in the first week of January.”

Mary Claire Borys, manager of strategic initiatives for the City of Memphis’ Division of Housing and Community Development (HCD), said the city has been working on recruiting and booking events for about a year and has events booked in 2024 and is having preliminary conversations about bookings for 2025.

“We’ve also got some big-name tournaments that we are trying to finalize and negotiate with to get them here,” Borys said.

The MSEC — which is touted as the biggest indoor sports facility in the Mid-South region — is expected to make Memphis a major player in one of the hottest sports sectors. It is expected to attract 2 million visitors annually for activities related to the MSEC.

“So many youth sports facilities are [on] the edge of suburban communities or down in rural communities,” Borys said. “Fans and [players'] families are going to love being able to travel to a city like Memphis for a tournament and have all the great entertainment and food options that we have.

"This is the kind of place that a whole family can come to for a vacation, while the kids are playing sports," she continued. "We believe this is one of the top-five indoor sports facilities in the nation.”