As progress continues on Liberty Park – a massive mixed-use redevelopment project of the surrounding Mid-South Fairgrounds, the first phase of which is expected to be completed this fall – and the wheels are in motion for significant stadium improvements home to Tigers football as well as the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and the Southern Heritage Classic, some wonder what this might mean for the historic city-owned sports and entertainment venue.
In the early stages of Liberty Park’s launch, Mayor Jim Strickland said last week that the city had reached an agreement with the Colosseum Coalition, a group strongly in favor of saving and preserving the Mid-South Coliseum. Essentially, the city promised to delay any final decision on the building’s fate, giving anyone with a good idea the chance to come forward.
“That person hasn’t come forward yet,” Strickland said. “I doubt that person will show up. (But) there are no immediate plans to renovate it and there are no immediate plans to tear it down.
Dormant since 2006, when a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit shut down the property, the Mid-South Coliseum (and what to do with it) has both ardent supporters and outspoken detractors. Following the announcement of the Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium last week, some voiced their opinions on social media.
“Sounds smart,” Chris Tedder posted on Twitter. “Invest ($)400-500 million in Liberty Bowl and the new Liberty Park, but don’t be fooled by the run-down horror that is the Colosseum.”
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“Memphis is in desperate need of a mid-sized concert venue,” tweeted Joe Sills. “We’re missing a ton of shows that are too big for Minglewood and too small for the Forum. Raise the Colosseum and make it happen. One or two annual Tigers games, regular AEW shows and roll on.”
“Although I want the Colosseum to remain, I would not be opposed to its demolition as long as another sports facility is built,” Marco Carbognani said on Twitter. “No need for parking spaces or parking garage.”
Mid-South Coliseum Demo Cost
Part of the problem with demolishing the Mid-South Coliseum, as Strickland pointed out last week, is costing money. A little, in fact. According to Coliseum Coalition co-founder Marvin Stockwell, a 2018 assessment of the facility by Memphis engineering firm Allen & Hoshall estimated it would cost $8-10 million to raze the structure. . The same study – as well as an earlier separate independent assessment (2016) – both found the Mid-South Coliseum to be “in excellent condition,” Stockwell told The Commercial Appeal this week. He considers the Mid-South Coliseum “saved”, adding that he is confident in the “civic will of Memphis to keep it”.
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“Especially now that there’s a real redevelopment going on at the site,” said Stockwell, who has helped lead more than 110 VIP tours of the facility for potential investors over the past three years. “I think there is hope that something can be found. We are not there yet. But, when you look at what’s happening now and there’s this valuable civic asset right in the middle, I just think it’s a matter of time.
Contact sportswriter Jason Munz at [email protected] or on Twitter @munzly.