County committee votes to sell share of Pyramid to city

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - There was a big breakthrough Monday in the longstanding stalemate over the county's share of the Pyramid.

A Shelby County committee voted in favor of selling the county's share of the Pyramid, Mid-South Coliseum and the land beneath the Liberty Bowl to the city.

The talks focused on the future of the empty arena and a pending deal with the City of Memphis to lease it to outdoor retailer Bass Pro.

A battle of wills played out between commissioners Mike Ritz and Sydney Chism.

"They keep on delaying it and delaying it. It's not in the best interest of the people that we represent," said Chism, who accused Ritz of intentionally beating Pyramid talks to death to prevent a vote.

"It's the oldest trick in the book. They're going to filibuster this to death. Every time we bring this issue up, there's another issue."

Ritz demanded all central parties involved in Pyramid talks be present, to which Chism said, "Don't hold up these proceedings because we dropped the ball. They didn't drop the ball - we dropped the ball. We didn't notify them."

Ritz said he has a big problem with the deal to lease the Pyramid to Bass Pro. "Are these folks paying property taxes or not? I think the answer is 'no'," he said. "And as long as the answer is 'no', I'm not going to support this."

Ritz also said he's worried the retailer will not be responsible for upkeep of the Pyramid's facade. "Bass Pro is going to create a little subsidiary to own this, and therefore they're not responsible."

Chism countered that keeping the Pyramid on the roll is bad for taxpayers.

"Do what's right - and that's to get this off the county books because it's costing us every day," he said.

After more than two hours of talks, the committee voted 3-2 in favor of selling all three facilities to the City of Memphis.

But the resolution has two more hurdles: the full commission votes on the committee's decision next Monday, followed by Memphis City Council vote.

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