Charles “Chooch” Pickard had this to say about the new plan to transform the Coliseum. He is running for the City Council seat being vacated by Jim Strickland.
While I applaud the City and ULI’s efforts to get input from citizens and rework the fairgrounds plan, I’m not on board with turning the coliseum into an outdoor event venue. The nostalgia of the place isn’t what makes me say that.
From a preservationist standpoint, the building is a great example of Midcentury Modern Architecture. What most Memphians don’t realize is that in the 50’s and 60’s Memphis was recognized in all of the major architecture publications as a hotbed of contemporary architecture (now called Midcentury Modern). We were recruiting the most talented designers from the best architecture schools across the country.
From a fiscal responsibility standpoint, the MSC is a paid for asset that belongs to the citizens of Memphis. It’s in good condition and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Renovation of the building could be partially paid for with Historic Tax Credits (20% of construction costs) if the building is left largely intact. I believe that along with the Women’s Building/Creative Arts Building and a renovated Pipkin Building (with an addition if necessary) we would have enough space to serve the need for indoor youth sports that the city wants to build a new facility for. This would also be enough space for wrestling, basketball, music, etc hall of fame/museum space.
My last point against making the MSC an outdoor event venue is that we have two really great venues here already. The shiny new “shell” could be the death of the Levitt Shell and/or the Mud Island Amphitheater. We have a need for event space in Memphis that is mid-sized and can be used during cold and extremely hot weather.
Finally, the nostalgia and sentimentality is just icing on the cake that makes saving the building completely feasible.
For anyone questioning the ADA issues, as a preservation architect I can tell you that they are not insurmountable and not nearly as drastic as is perceived. As far as the non-compete clause, I believe that if the city were to ask the Grizzlies to the table with us, we can find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.