Meet Antonio Perez, the GM of the Memphis Sports and Events Center at Liberty Park

MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL

A Memphis Grizzlies executive has received a call-up to helm a future youth sports destination in Midtown.

Antonio Perez was recently named the general manager of the $57 million Memphis Sports and Events Center (MSEC) at Liberty Park, which is slated to open in fall 2022.

Perez was hired by Eastern Sports Management in January. The Fredericksburg, Virginia-based firm was chosen by the City of Memphis to manage the 227,000-square-foot facility.

“We are excited to welcome Antonio as our on-the-ground representative of this significant new asset for Memphis,” said John Wack, president of Eastern Sports Management, in a release. “Who better to lead our activation and ongoing management of this competitive youth sports destination than a renowned local leader in the category."

MAKING A MARK WITH THE GRIZZLIES AND MAGIC

Prior to starting as GM of the MSEC, Perez was the Grizzlies' director of youth basketball programming for the past six years.

During his tenure, Perez’s supervision over tournaments, leagues, and programs helped grow the Grizzlies’ fan engagement, revenue generation, regional awareness, and community outreach.

Perez also initiated basketball tournaments at FedExForum and initiatives that led to more involvement of girls in sports. He was a founding member of the Grizzlies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) working group and part of the team’s mentoring program. Perez was selected by MBJ as a 40 under 40 honoree in 2019.

Leaving the Grizzlies wasn’t easy for Perez, but this was an opportunity to take his career to another level.

“I absolutely loved my job with the Grizzlies, but it took something of this magnitude to draw me away,” Perez said. “This opportunity allows me to grow my experience beyond one sport. … Obviously, my role at the Grizzlies helped me to establish a meaningful and impactful youth sports network.”

Before coming to the Grizzlies, Perez was part of the Orlando Magic organization for eight years and helped established sports tourism partnerships in over a dozen countries. He also won several sales performance awards and was named the Magic’s volunteer of the year in 2014.

In addition, during his time in Florida, Perez worked with the Florida Panthers of the NHL at the team’s practice and events facility. And, for over a decade, Perez has done contract work for the NBA and its marketing agencies to assist in large-scale endeavors such as the NBA All-Star weekend.

Perez looks to put the network he's established during his career to work in launching programming at the MSEC.

“I know a lot of people who can make good use of the facility and that network spread to the people they know,” Perez said. “We want to educate everyone on how amazing this facility is going to be and all the different things that can be involved that extend beyond basketball — volleyball, indoor soccer, or various events such as cheer and dance. This is a facility that is going to be accessible to all types of groups and people both locally, regionally, and nationally.”

FACILITATING AN 'ECONOMIC BOON'

According to Perez, youth sports tournament organizers are contacting the city regularly about booking the MSEC.

“I think people will be surprised that we are already fielding inquires and looking to fill a calendar well into 2023,” Perez said. “So, if someone is looking to get into this building to host a tournament or an event, they should definitely submit an inquiry. That type of planning ahead is involved with a facility of this nature.”

The MSEC is expected to attract two million visitors annually to activities related to the facility's events.

“People should come to expect a professionally run facility and high-quality programs,” Perez said. "I’m looking forward to what the [MSEC] is going to do, especially from a sports tourism standpoint.

"We want to attract people to Memphis, so they can visit attractions, experience the culture, eat the food, and stay in the hotels," he continued. "So, in that way, this facility is going to be an economic boon for the city of Memphis.”