When the Vancouver Grizzlies relocated to Memphis in 2001 their stadium situation was not ideal. The Grizzlies played until 2004 in the Pyramid Arena, one of the most unique looking venues to ever host an NBA team, what with it being a giant pyramid and all, but one that was not even close to being viable as a long term home. With that in mind, and with a need to appease the NBA after the franchise was awarded, construction began on the FedExForum in 2002 and the new arena was opened in September of 2004 at a construction cost of $250 million.
The court at the FedExForum is another which is sank below ground level in order to accommodate the needs of fans and not make them have to climb stairs to watch their team play. With a capacity of 18,119 for basketball, it is right up there with the rest of the league in terms of getting people into the stands. The FedExForum also has a number of premium seating options on game days, including 1,000 premiere courtside seats, 27 courtside suites, 32 clubs suites, 4 party suites and 80 club boxes. This wide array of luxury seating helps generate the money needed for the Grizzlies to be competitive in the NBA.
Graphic via mortenson
One cool feature of the FedExForum is the way in which it ties in to the heritage and history of the city of Memphis. There are paintings and murals around the building which depict some of the most famous musical artists from the city, while the restaurants in the arena have names like the Opus Restaurant and Blue Note Lounge, again tying into the overall theme.
Another notable feature of the building is the “see through” shot clock which is now ubiquitous around the league. The FedExForum was the first NBA Arena to utilize the technology after a fan sent an email to NBA Commissioner David Stern after sitting with an obscured view behind the shot clock at a New Jersey Nets game. The FedExForum saw a trial use of the new unit, which proved to be a roaring success and has since been installed in NBA and college arenas all over the country.
The FedExForum has hosted a number of events in addition to Grizzlies home games. One of the first events after the arena’s opening was an IBF Light Heavyweight title fight between Glen Johnson and Roy Jones Jr., which Johnson won with a 9th round knockout. The fighting theme has been continued from that date with the arena hosting countless WWE events and a UFC pay per view. It has also become a favorite spot for the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, with rounds being held in Memphis in 2009 and 2013, and with another visit planned for the 2017 tournament.
The FedExForum is an ideal spot for Grizzlies basketball, but the venue almost didn’t get to open on time die to freak wind storm which blew through Memphis in 2003. This strong storm was so powerful that it almost blew the cranes building the venue on Beale Street on top of the facility, which would have delayed progress and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Fortunately the cranes held and the city of Memphis was able to get its newest facility completed on time.
Graphic via wikipedia