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Will the Liberty Park development result in a Mid-South Coliseum revamp?

The Coliseum Coalition believes it’s inevitable
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 6:08 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With ground moving at the old Mid-South Fairgrounds, soon to be Liberty Park, questions are being asked as to what becomes of the Mid-South Coliseum just across the street.

For nearly fifteen years, it has stood vacant, but there is new interest in revitalizing the historic venue.

“We are absolutely convinced that never has there been a better time to think about the possibilities and really design it in a way that makes the most use of the space in a way that enhances all of Liberty Park,” said Marvin Stockwell, Co-Founder of Coliseum Coalition.

Stockwell says he’s given tours of the coliseum, like the one he gave to WMC Action News Five on Wednesday, to over 100 potential investors in the last three years.

He claims assessments show the facility is in excellent structural shape, with easily fixable cosmetic issues, which are many.

Stockwell says the Coliseum would best serve as a multi-purpose facility and would take $25 million dollars to reopen.

“When people see the inside of the building and realize how much utility there is, how much square footage is in there... they are really starting to think about what all could be done,” Stockwell said.

$40 million is the number the city of Memphis came up with for reopening, according to Stockwell, but he would like to see a phased approach to revitalization like at Levitt Shell, hence his $25 million figure.

“It is in such amazing shape. I have people on every tour say, ‘can’t we just power wash this thing and open it back up?’ What you’re seeing now is worst condition,” said Chooch Pickard, a Principal at ArchInc, who gave Wednesday’s tour with Stockwell.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a non-compete clause with the FedExForum have put the breaks on reopening the Coliseum.

Stockwell says there’s a plan to address both, by bringing the total capacity down to just under 5,000 fixed seats.

“Making the aisles wider, creating a row around the top that would make the press box wheelchair accessible, would require a certain amount of seats to come out,” Stockwell said. “Our plan calls for a reduction of 9,100 seat to 4,900 seats.”

The hope is by the time Liberty Park is complete, there may be a plan to restore this historic venue.

“I would argue that the coliseum, as a mid-size venue, is the missing piece of our venue portfolio that has contributed to Memphis becoming a second-tier concert destination city,” Stockwell said. “We think that’s a shame since we’re Memphis.”

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