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You can only get so far on hot dogs, peanuts, and barbecue nachos. Such was the thinking of the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation when they created the Plaza Club. Located on the 20,000- square-foot second floor of the Toyota Center adjacent to AutoZone Park, the club is a private dining, meeting, and social facility in what has become the heart of Memphis’ downtown renaissance. The brainchild of Dean and Kristi Jernigan, the Plaza Club offers members two primary dining areas, four meeting rooms, and reciprocal privileges with a pair of area golf courses -- Plantation and Cherokee Valley in Olive Branch, Mississippi -- as well as reciprocal relationships with other stadium clubs across the country -- e.g. Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Turner Field in Atlanta, Wrigley Field in Chicago, and Camden Yards in Baltimore. An on-site concierge can help members make reservations with these reciprocal clubs, and even purchase tickets to events at the various member stadiums. With an initial fee of $500, along with monthly dues of $60, members have access to the kind of facility typically found only in the big leagues, and that was the aim all along. Says Plaza Club president Jason Macaulay, “This was always a part of the plan. I once talked to the owner of a minor-league team and asked him what he thought of reciprocals. He said no one in the major leagues would want to deal with us. I come from a club background [The Racquet Club, the University Club] and clubs have reciprocals. What you have to do is find the right people.” Not only did Macaulay capture the ear of several big-league baseball franchises, he arranged privileges with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams. Dining at the club, which opened in October and has more than 1,200 members, is in the hands of chef Tim Loving, who trained at the Culinary Institute of New York. The menu for the Martin Room (the primary dining area, named after the owners of the old Memphis Red Sox of the Negro Leagues) features the likes of pan-roasted duck breast, bacon-wrapped halibut, and lobster saffron risotto, as well as several desserts and an extensive wine list. A more casual menu is offered in the smaller Russwood Grill (named after the stadium that burned to the ground in 1960), with Plaza Calamari and a lobster club sandwich among the entrees. The facility was designed by Looney Ricks Kiss Interiors and can best be described as elegantly modern. For special events such as weddings and banquets, the Martin Room can accommodate up to 275 guests. A health-and-fitness facility is also being discussed, perhaps to be located on another floor of the Toyota Center. All this -- fine dining, special benefits, private meeting rooms -- and no peanut shells. NOTE: This article originally appeared in the “City Beat” section of Memphis Magazine.

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