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Mid-South Fairgrounds Redevelopment Study

October 7th, 2006

One day soon, don't be surprised to hear that the Mid-South Coliseum is to be demolished. A study has been completed and even though the Coliseum is FULLY paid for, books between 80 and 140 events per year, is fundmentally sound and suffers no significant physical issues - some think the "best and highest use of the ground where the Coliseum stands is - grass.

A sports field.

It does need retrofitting for better handicap access and some maintainence that is overdue, but all of that is cheaper than building a new arena, and better than not having one at all.

Much of the study is reasonable and thoughtful. The fairgrounds are a paved over, disjointed, non-flowing place because of how it has evolved over time. This should be fixed. Notice the Midway and Shelby County Building below as they originally were. Very nice.

It's also interesting to note that city leaders told study publisher Looney Ricks Kiss to assume the Memphis Childrens Museaum and The Liberty Bowl Stadium were long term leases and would not be removed. They said nothing about the Mid-South Coliseum, clearly indicating a predetermined agenda.

Of course, city leadership is not bound by the study, they didn't save the Zippin Pippin or the Carousel from Libertyland as it strongly suggested.

Maybe thats because city leadership didn't read the study. They sure didn't focus on it. Take a look at the stakeholders who were invited and did NOT participate in the process (pp 54).

Will we be surprised when those same names lead the charge to destroy yet another Memphis landmark and replace it with - The Mid-South Fair Grounds Grass Field?

The study can be found here: Attach:Fairgroundsredev.pdf or here.

Shelby County Bld & Midway circa 1922

The Mid-South Coliseum and Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (originally Memphis Memorial Stadium) rise out of the ground at the Mid-South Fairgrounds in this aerial photograph by Tom Barber of the Memphis Press-Scimitar dated 26 May 64. From the files of The Commercial Appeal.

High-banked steps, on which the seats of the $4.5 million city-county Mid-South Coliseum would be placed, were taking shape at The Fairgrounds on 20 Nov 63. Work on the building was ahead of schedule at the time, according to then City Commissioner James W. Moore. Photo appeared in The Commercial Appeal on 21 Nov 63. Staff Photo. Photo Courtesy Special Collections/University of Memphis Libraries.

Tennessee Ernie Ford (Left), Danny Thomas (Center) and Sammy Davis, Jr. (Right) chat back stage prior to the St. Jude Shower of Stars at the Mid-South Coliseum on 29 May 1971. Also performing at the benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital were Bob Hope, Vikki Carr and Frank Sinatra. The benefit raised an estimated $175,000 for the hospital. Staff Photo by Barney Sellers. From the files of The Commercial Appeal.

Elvis Presley performs what would be his last Memphis concert July 5, 1976 before a crowd of 12,000 at Mid-South Coliseum. Exactly twenty-two years earlier (7/5/54), Elvis recorded "That's All Right" at Sam Phillips' little studio at 706 Union. Introducing the song, he said: "I've had some people say - well, you can't do that song anymore - well, you, by God, just watch me." (By Barney Sellers / The Commercial Appeal)

This is a ticket to an Elvis concert at the Mid-South Coliseum. However, the concert the ticket was for never happened -- the ticket is dated August 28, 1977, 12 days after Elvis died. You can see this ticket on display at Charles Cavallo's Cupboard Restaurant on Union. Thanks to The Cupboard for allowing me to photograph it for this site! (Clinton Yelvington)


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Memphis State 1986-87

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Celine Dion : Mid South Coliseum Memphis 1997

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Lawler and Jackie Fargo

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Prime Time Sunday Feature About Memphis Wrestling from 12/79


By John Beifuss

August 19, 2006

40 years ago today the Beatles played the Mid South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. See John Beifuss's article.

What Beifuss doesn't mention is that the Coliseum has NO operating funds past December 31, 2006. The 1963 building is slated for demolition by the current fallible humans in power who do not understand American Pop Culture and the role Memphis played in it - and more importantly the brick and mortar that contained this Pop Culture. Furthermore, these uninspired politicians do not understand HOW TO MAKE MONEY ON MEMPHIS POP HISTORY. The easiest fix of course is to hand it over to sharp fanged land developers who bulldoze it and rebuild for property tax revenue which in turn the city will waste. These people put the shit in history.

There are only a few venues left in America where the Beatles played. Elvis played at the Mid-South Coliseum many times and shortly before he died. Elvis sold the Coliseum out in it's biggest show ever 20 years AFTER he died by merely being projected on screen. This is a supreme form of conceptualization and the Coliseum was it's witness.


Jerry Lawler wrestled Andy Kaufman there in 1983. I just interviewed Lawler for DESTROY MEMPHIS where he quickly recounted 22 years of memphis arena history. Lawler is an INCREDIBLE painter and all around scholar of American Pop Culture. Lawler deserves his own documentary as a local pop icon who spilled into the national scene with Kaufman who often did Elvis impersonations.

My first rock arena experience was at the Mid South Coliseum (Ted Nugent/Blackfoot, thank you very much). Again, this is only important to you if you understand American Pop Culture and the role Memphis had in creating it and furthering it. And the Coliseum is the only arena of three in Memphis that has paid for itself.

And now the old beautiful Coliseum may be torn down for a coffee shop and a nod to erasing a physical history that a certain local political tangent wishes never existed. The Fed Ex Forum, the local behemoth arena downtown (which mowed down tons of history in it's wake) has a 'no-compete clause' which has caused that other arena (shaped like a Pyramid) to close it's oblong doors. But the Coliseum fills a necessary void: the smaller scale events like the Shrine Circus, jam bands, and civic events need an appropriate venue, otherwise these shows wind up at the DeSoto Civic Center, an arena in "nearby" Mississippi that looks like Wal-Mart designed it.


If you think this doesn't matter to you because you live somewhere else, you better think again. History on the subversive scale is disappearing everywhere; the destruction of rock arenas, children's amusement parks, and bowling alleys abound, and racism is the root cause. The real estate industry sponsored - media induced perception of the 'bad neighborhood' is creating a mindset that wants to destroy the old part of town. Poor people who live in these areas have the additional title of being "bad" because they do not participate in the system that despises them. It seems disposable so most do not notice. In most cases it cannot be stopped because it is a private ownership issue, in other cases, like Memphis's theme park LIBERTYLAND, we gave it our best shot because it was a public parks land issue. This City is eager to sell it's parks lands to private investors because it does not know how to handle the city's impending bankruptcy and the media seems unwilling (editorially) to report it correctly.

All of this will be presented to you in the next Guerrilla Monster Film, a documentary called DESTROY MEMPHIS. This time the truth will be NAKED and kids will be invited to watch. Don't be suprised if we get this sucker finished right before the next Memphis Mayoral elections for Fall 2007.


"Liberals dream of equal rights, conservatives live in a world gone by" sings Ray Davies in the song "Uncle Son" on the apocryphal 'Muswell Hillbillies (1971), an album that decried the Orwellian destruction of the London suburb that Davies grew up in. One could muse that the Conservatives (ironically) want to see NEW buildings in which people go about their business with old world values. Liberals, on the other hand, want to save OLD buildings and have new things happen inside them, like cooperatives and small businesses. Leave it to Memphis to defy that stereotype: Here the black liberals rebuild Stax (which was torn down by white conservatives) but tear down the amusement park which employs hundreds of black youth - yet nearby Orange Mound (who supplied those workers) will always vote by color rather than class.

Black people as a group will never be accused of regarding history warmly, because they see their best chance in the future. The very subject of History depresses the black populace. Whites love History because it features their best moments. The past shows us all to have been at our best and worst.

If those with political power in Memphis could only see what the local artist or the tourist sees about Memphis then there would be no need for shame, no need to DESTROY MEMPHIS.


I'm an advocate for the past because that's where it's at. It's the one thing we got wrong but at least it's in black and white. It's fixed in time and points to the future. Sure, hordes of people were mistreated, but their oppression through an American system led to the greatest music, comics, movies (and toys!) that have proven NOT disposable. This greatest period of everlasting commercially oriented art I call the Golden Age of American Pop Culture. It is defined by the life and death of Elvis Presley. Before you turn your head and groan please realize that this 42 year period (1935-1977) is the template by which EVERYTHING POP recycles, reinvents, and eats itself.

Not only is this period the most fertile ground (arguably) for music and art, but it also contains the rise and fall of the most progressive strains in politics, personalities, middle class warfare, and especially civil rights, which also reverberates most strongly in Memphis Tennessee. This belief, called the RISE & FALL OF AMERICAN POP CULTURE, should be a documentary in it's own right, certainly it has provided me with a reason to live and breath artistically - but my theory also informs this new red white blue and ORANGE documentary called DESTROY MEMPHIS.


Oh, the head game America plays with it's own history: Western man has to reach out and touch something for it to be 'real' and yet Capitalism must rebuild, re-destroy, and hand out low pay at the end of the week in an effort to prove that capitalism works. Sadly we've all gotten used to reaching out and touching a plastic recreation of anything that's real. Sex, money, and taxes are plastic. Death awaits each of us as the last great reminder of 'keeping it real". Some choose to be cremated rather than have their bodies stuffed with plastic.

The way Americans look at history and even each other is all schizophrenia. Is it any wonder we don't know or care about our past, our elderly, our ancestors, or last year. This years model is greed.

I reached out and touched the historic marker where once something great stood' is not good enough for me. I'm more western than I am a capitalist. SHOW ME the history, folks. Let me touch it, let my children touch it. Build your glowing strip mall just to the left or right of PERMANENCE, and leave the not so ancient american past VISIBLE to be pondered by those with a respect for history and a keen sense of pop culture.

Don't let History become slang.

JMM August 19, 2006

Read about the newest strip mall soon to appear where Imperial Lanes, a 1958 bowling alley now stands on cool old Summer Avenue in Memphis. You've all seen the cliched horror plot of those who build on an ancient burial ground? Imagine what happens when you build upon the grave of ancient American Pop Culture? SOLUTION: SELL MEXICAN AMERICANS ON BOWLING!

p.s.: My daughter Hanna wants to know if it's true if we are destroying the world or are we just destroying memphis?

Coliseum benched; still a player

By David Williams

November 23, 2006

The Mid-South Coliseum will be shut down Jan. 5 for all but graduations and other community events. But the city says it's not a precursor to demolition.

Employees were told Wednesday that their jobs are ending as the famed Roundhouse goes into what City Park Services director Cindy Buchanan called "minimal maintenance mode."

Over perhaps the next six months, the city and county will determine the building's long-term prospects and the costs of necessary repairs.

Buchanan said the coliseum appears suited to a secondary role in the market for smaller concerts and community events that don't play FedExForum, especially given plans to convert The Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops outdoors mega-store.

"It looks like there probably is a need for the big facility, the FedExForum, and one other facility," Buchanan said. "We're looking at the options for the coliseum. There are a number of different scenarios."

Coliseum director Steve Fox said he believes local government eventually will find a role for the building.

"I'm also very hopeful that prior to that, there will be a firm offer from a private group to try and secure the building's future by privatization," Fox said. "I think either one of those two (scenarios) are going to develop."

He said efforts also are being made to secure an anchor tenant.

But in the meantime, Fox said, the decision to essentially shut down the building was "probably, in my opinion, the best move they could make to stop the bleeding."

Cost analyses are still being run, but in May, projections called for the 42-year-old Coliseum to see a $400,000 operating deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Fox said the building has six full-time employees, down from 18 several years ago.

"We're down to a basic skeleton crew -- three engineers, myself, an office manager and a director of operations," Fox said.

"My understanding, clearly, is that the city -- and we're very grateful to them -- is going to do all they can to find placement for all the employees somewhere in the city. That's what the intent is."

A financial analysis of operating losses this year at the coliseum, and projections of savings post-Jan. 5, are expected to be available soon.

Another key is determining a firm cost to meet Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

"Are we talking $15 million or are we really talking $3 million?" Buchanan said.

-- David Williams: 529-2310

May 24, 2007

It was sadly reported today that the local Mid-South Coliseum will go into a "sleep mode" at the conclusion of this year's graduations. A new budget has been approved which only allows for one full-time staff person and a minimum of maintenance and utilities for the building.

City Council members continue to try to find a way to keep the Coliseum open; however, the FedEx Forum's non-compete clause continues to bar many concerts and events from being scheduled for this venue.

-- Jacinthia Jones


A look at the Mid-South Coliseum:

Age: 42

Full-time employees: Six

Short-term status: Will be shut down for all but community events on Jan. 5.

Long-term status: Potential secondary arena to FedExForum, either as a government-owned building or in private hands.,2845,MCA_25340_5164587,00.html

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