MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some Memphians were not happy to hear the mayor’s plan Tuesday to tear down the Mid-South Coliseum to build a new soccer stadium.
“My initial reaction, of course, we've been working at this for seven years to reopen the Mid-South Coliseum, is one of shock," says Roy Barnes, president of the Coliseum Coalition. "To the replacement, demolition, whatever you want to call it.”
Barnes was not thrilled about Mayor Jim Strickland's plan to replace the Coliseum with a new, 10,000-person soccer stadium for Memphis 901 FC.
“At some point in time, you got to move on and I think this is a great time where we have a great use for it," Mayor Strickland said Tuesday. "Soccer is a growing sport in popularity.”
“We're very happy that this awesome civic organization and sports organization is going to get a new facility,” Barnes clarified.
Just not on top of the Coliseum.
Barnes said an alternative spot for the new stadium could be the site of the old Coca-Cola building just across the street.
“The city took it over," he said. "So that lot is ready to be unified into the fairgrounds as well as into the Beltline and Orange Mountain neighborhoods.”
The arena has been closed since 2007.
“We have opened that facility for seven years for anyone that wants to look at it," Mayor Strickland said. "No one, absolutely no one has come up with a way to financially make that work.”
Barnes says his group has been doing pre-development work for the past year to make the building a regular, multi-use facility.
"You've got to have more of a mix of uses," he says. "Seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Ultimately, he said it's a piece of history worth preserving.
“This was designed and built, from the very moment it opened, for integration," Barnes said. "There was never a taint of segregation. So that's huge and through the years, I think that's one of the reasons why the building has been such a building of joy."
Barnes also said that building the 901 FC stadium elsewhere would save the city the millions of dollars required for the Coliseum's demolition.