As Liberty Stadium, Liberty Park plans progress, what should become of Mid-South Coliseum?

·3 min read

Last week's announcement of grand plans to renovate and reimagine Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium reignited a familiar debate: What should the future hold for nearby Mid-South Coliseum?

As progress continues on Liberty Park – a massive mixed-use redevelopment project of the surrounding Mid-South Fairgrounds, the first phase of which is scheduled for completion this fall – and wheels are in motion on significant upgrades to the stadium that's home to Tigers football as well as the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and Southern Heritage Classic, some are wondering what it might mean for the historic, city-owned sports and entertainment venue.

In the very early stages of Liberty Park's launch, Mayor Jim Strickland said last week, the city made an agreement with the Coliseum Coalition, a group staunchly in favor of saving and preserving the Mid-South Coliseum. In essence, the city vowed it would delay any final decision on the fate of the building, giving someone with a good idea the chance to come forward.

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“That person hasn’t shown up yet,” Strickland said. “I doubt that person will show up. (But) there’s no immediate plans to renovate it and there’s no immediate plans to tear it down.”

Dormant since 2006, when a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit that shuttered the property, the Mid-South Coliseum (and what to do with it) has both ardent supporters and vehement detractors. Following last week's Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium announcement, some voiced their opinions on social media.

"Seems smart," Chris Tedder posted on Twitter. "Invest ($)400-500 million in Liberty Bowl and the new Liberty Park but don't do jack with the dilapidated eyesore that is the Coliseum."

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"Memphis desperately needs a mid-size concert venue," Joe Sills tweeted. "We miss a ton of shows too big for Minglewood and too small for the Forum. Spruce the Coliseum up and make it happen. Annual throwback Tigers game or two, regular AEW shows and it’s rolling."

"As much as I want the Coliseum to stay, I wouldn’t be opposed to demolition as long as another sporting facility is built," Marco Carbognani said on Twitter. "No need for parking spaces or parking garage."

Mid-South Coliseum on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.
Mid-South Coliseum on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.

Mid-South Coliseum demo cost

Part of the problem with demolishing the Mid-South Coliseum, as Strickland pointed out last week, it costs money. Quite a bit, 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 to $10 million to raze the structure. The same study – as well as a separate, earlier (2016) independent assessment – both deemed Mid-South Coliseum to be "in excellent shape," Stockwell told The Commercial Appeal this week. He considers the Mid-South Coliseum "saved," adding he is confident in Memphis' "civic will to keep after it."

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“Especially now that there is true redevelopment happening at the site,” said Stockwell, who has helped lead more than 110 VIP tours of the facility for potential investors over the past three-plus years. “I think there’s hope something can be found. We’re not there yet. But, when you look at what’s going on now and here is this treasured civic asset right in the middle of it, I just think it’s a matter of time.”

Reach sports writer Jason Munz at jason.munz@commercialappeal.com or on Twitter @munzly.

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: What should become of Mid-South Coliseum amid Liberty Park progress?