The City’s Plan for the Mid-South Coliseum, the Fairgrounds and the TDZ

We are posting the following in order to inform the public about an important poll conducted in early July 2015 to obtain voters’ opinions on the City’s proposed Fairgrounds redevelopment plan that uses a Tourism Development Zone as a funding mechanism.

On August 3rd the following Press Release was sent out to local media outlets.

PRESS RELEASE:

DATE: Monday August 3, 2015

WHAT: Release of poll numbers regarding the Mid-South Coliseum and the Fairgrounds TDZ

STATEMENT: On behalf of several concerned citizens, Memphis Heritage is releasing the results of a poll to all candidates for City of Memphis Mayor and all City Council races. This independent poll was commissioned in early July to get input from voters on the City of Memphis’ plan for the Fairgrounds redevelopment. The letter below was sent to all candidates asking for their response to one question at the bottom of the letter. The candidates are asked to answer this one question by Thursday afternoon, August 6th. The results of those responding (and not responding) will be released this coming Friday Aug. 7th. (Memphis Heritage did not commission this poll. MHI was asked to assist in disseminating this information to the public and the press.)

CONTACT: JUNE WEST 901-272-2727


 

Responses received from the Candidates:

(IF A CANDIDATE’S NAME AND RESPONSE ARE NOT LISTED BELOW THEN THEY DID NOT RESPOND TO THE POLL QUESTION)

CLICK HERE TO READ THE POLL LETTER SENT TO ALL CANDIDATES

Following are responses from Mayoral and City Council candidates to this MHI survey, re: Future of the Coliseum. On August 3, 2015, candidates were asked, “If you are elected, would you support and work to implement the renovation and reuse of the Mid-South Coliseum as a community resource, with or without the approval of a TDZ plan for the redevelopment of the Fairgrounds?”

Perry Bond, for City Council District 6:  Yes. Note: The Mid-South Coliseum had been a vital part of not only the Orange Mound community but of the city’s entertainment community. The history will show that major concerts and sporting events were held in this venue. The events often brought together the different races and somehow promoted racial harmony. I would be supportive of the Mid-South Coliseum being converted to a facility that would improve and enhance the lives of the citizens of Memphis and the mid south.

Charley Burch, for City Council District 9 Position 1: Yes. Note: If we as Memphians can find a way to preserve our heritage and progress as a community, such actions will receive my support.

Stephen Christian, for City Council District 9 Position 3: Yes. Note: You bet I Would. I Run to move Memphis toward World Class Status. I want Memphis to be a World Class City. A Vibrant and Happening City that Draws People Money Jobs and Investments. A City that People WANT to Live in and WANT to Visit. I Have a Vision of Memphis Being THE city, A Premiere City. And That Vision DOES NOT include a Vacant Fairgrounds or a Vacant Mid South Coliseum. So Most Definitely I would be in Favor of The Renovation and Reuse of the Mid South Coliseum.

Donnell Cobbins, for City Council District 4:  Yes. Note: On Aug. 26, 2015 Mr. Cobbins posted the following message on the Save the Mid-South Coliseum Facebook page. “I am Donnell Cobbins a candidate for City Council which includes the Coliseum. I believe that the Coliseum is a City treasure that warrants being saved. I think our plan should include establishing foundation similar to Shelby Farms, Overton Park and Wolf River Conservancies for the purposes of collecting contributions as well as developing and action plan. Therefore, I support our doing whatever is necessary to save the Coliseum.”

Kemp Conrad, for City Council District 9 Position 1:  Undecided. Note: Thanks for all MH does for historic preservation. I am against the plan in its current form and find it to be “half baked”. I will continue to urge the administration to engage all stakeholders and create a plan that is vibrant yet fiscally responsible and grounded in financial reality.

Tanya Cooper, for City Council District 3: Yes.

Janet Eason, for City Council District 8 Position 2: (No response was posted on the MHI website.) Note: However, an email from Ms. Eason stated: “Received your letter. I want to take this “smartly”, as I am running for City Council seat 8/2. If we can work together after the election, this step one. If not voted in the position, I want to (step 2) help make this an issue that the City Council has to make it a priority. I’ve got to get elected, working on that to happen, “Together” we need to make MSC a diamond, not a lump of coal. I know you understand, going against the grain is never easy, but time does change things, and Memphis has to move towards 2030 not 1864. Thank you for your time.”

Edmund Ford, Jr., for City Council District 6:  Yes.

Jimmie Franklin, for City Council District 5:  Yes.

Anderson Fullilove, Jr., for Mayor:  Yes. Note: I have done grassroots over the years, and the coliseum should have never been closed. The city found money to open Tiger Lane, redo the Liberty Bowl, even after the coliseum had been closed for several years.

Stephanie Gatewood, for City Council District 9 Position 2:  Yes.

Detrick Golden, for City Council District 2:  Yes. Note: I’ve supported the coalition since day 1.

Delvin Lane, for City Council District 6: Yes. Note: I often attend concerts and shows at the Landers Center in Southaven, MS. We could easily host our own concerts at the Mid-South Coliseum. As an elected official, I will strive to get the Coliseum renovated and reused.

John Marek, for City Council District 5: Yes. Note: I would absolutely support and work to implement the renovation and reuse of the Mid-South Coliseum as a community resource. While I am skeptical of using a TDZ plan for the redevelopment of the Fairgrounds, I would support the renovation and reuse of the Mid-South Coliseum with or without the use of a TDZ plan. I am a strong believer in historic preservation in Memphis. When I visit other cities and countries, I see their rich histories in their art and buildings. Memphis needs to preserve as much as it can so that its residents and visitors can enjoy its history as well. I am dismayed when our community loses a beautiful building, like the Union Avenue United Methodist, and am glad when we are able to save one, like the Nineteenth Century Club because these historic and architectural gems are irreplaceable and strengthen our communities.

The Mid-South Coliseum is one of these gems. I was one of the lucky participants selected to speak with the NCI/ULI panel about what we should do with the Fairgrounds. While I am not a developer, I was the top-in-class at Univ. of Memphis Law School in Land Use Planning & Development. Though others offered some of my ideas, I was excited to see many of my suggestions included in the presentation at the Peabody. I believe preserving green space, Tiger Lane, and our disc golf course can provide great community returns at a low cost supporting demand and momentum for next steps. Additionally, this presentation proposed reusing the Coliseum and all of our other buildings on the fairgrounds instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on new ones. Now we must hope that the city follows through with these recommendations, whether or not a TDZ is adopted or not because allowing these community resources is irresponsible and leads to degradation of the area. I hope that the city would have a private entity run the water park on the Fairgrounds to avoid liability issues.

I joined the Coliseum Coalition and became a part of its non-compete subcommittee so that I could look into the issue of FedEx’s right of first refusal. I think fighting the FedEx forum over the right of first refusal would be futile; however, I do think a productive meeting or discussion over the issue with them could not hurt. If a deal could not be struck, all hope should not be lost. Even with the right of first refusal in place, the Coliseum would still be allowed to seat up to 5,000 for concerts, which is attractive to many performers and plenty of seats for a medium-sized venue. This issue took a new importance to me soon after the NCI/ULI presentation. I lost an old friend, Troy Goode, at the hands of the Southaven police. He was attending a concert at Snowden Grove, and he was hog-tied over the cries of his wife, who was screaming, “He has asthma. Don’t hog-tie him!” If the concert had taken place at the Coliseum instead of Snowden Grove, my friend would still be here today.

According to the Coliseum Coalition, Memphis loses $100,000 annually to concertgoers going to Snowden Grove. If we cannot trust Mississippi with our residents’ safety, why would we want to give them our money? We already send enough money to Tunica; let’s not send any more money to Mississippi. Let’s renovate and reuse the Mid-South Coliseum, and let’s make the Fairgrounds back into what it was meant to be: the central gathering spot in the center of our city. Any underutilized areas inside the venue could become museum space to showcase the history of the Coliseum and the many acts, athletes, and performances over the years, as well as an opportunity to empower others to take pride in their community resources and historic preservation by highlighting how it was saved.

Lynn Moss, for City Council District 9 Position 2:  Yes. Note: I am totally committed to the re-opening of the Mid-South Coliseum. I moved to Memphis in 1999 from the Mississippi Delta with my two young sons. We spent many days at Liberty Land, at the Mid-South Fair and my now grown sons still remember to this day the time we went to the Circus at the Mid-South Coliseum. I love Memphis and its heritage must be preserved. I’ve been saddened again and again as I’ve seen us lose Liberty Land and the Mid-South Fair. The Coliseum is an historical icon in this city and now that it has been “saved”, we must move to re-open it in a fashion that will benefit all its surrounding neighborhoods first and foremost. Our heritage is what defines our city and the restoration of the Mid-South Coliseum is a must! I have volunteered to be on the Building Committee as of last week’s meeting and I look forward to working with all of the dedicated individuals who love Memphis as much as I do.

Chooch Pickard, for City Council District 5: Yes.

Wayne Roberts, for City Council District 1:  Yes. Note: Not only would I support all efforts, but I would attempt to void the current restrictive contract placed on its use immediately, so the renovation can determine the highest and best use, including venue sizes.

Paul Shaffer, for City Council District 9 Position 2:  Yes.

Robin Spielberger, for City Council District 9 Position 1:  Yes. Note: Please see my remarks about the Coliseum on my website at the link below. They should provide further insight into exactly where I stand on this issue and how devoted I am to saving and reopening the Mid-South Coliseum. Additionally, I am a member of the Coliseum Coalition building committee and have been quite active and vocal in support of this “cause.” http://rightformemphis.com/focus/save-the-coliseum/ I also spoke at length about the aforementioned during an interview with The New Southern, a local, online newspaper. The statements are similar but I hope it goes to show just how important I find this issue. See the link below to read what I had to say. http://thenewsouthern.com/2015/08/04/get-to-know-a-candidate-robin-spielberger-for-city-council/9/ Thanks!!!

Coleman Thompson, for City Council District 3: (No response was posted on the MHI website.) Note: However, Mr. Thompson left a voicemail on MHI’s phone stating that his vote will be “with the people, [that] whatever they decide he will back.” Later when MHI spoke with him personally, he said his response was “Yes” to the question.

Jim Tomasik, for City Council District 2:  Yes. Note: I want to see the Mid South Coliseum restored to its original glory or better. This building is rich in Memphis history and is an iconic center-piece for the city and the Mid South. Furthermore, I understand that the TDZ plan may be considered a good thing by some for that area of Memphis, I am convinced that it would be detrimental to the sports venues already in place here in City Council District 2. This topic is not new to me. I have been voicing my opposition to the TDZ and the destruction of the building for a few years now. I will do whatever I can to maintain the Mid South Coliseum as a historical asset for the City of Memphis. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call me.

David Vinciarelli, for City Council District 7: Yes.

Sharon Webb, for Mayor:  Yes. Note: I would love to see the coliseum renovated for a top notch spot for the young people, family friendly. This would occupy our youth and create jobs more revenue for the city. Not for Tourists but for us. Tourists are welcome, but for us.

Kenneth Whalum, Jr., for City Council District 9 Position 2: Yes. Note: I’ve demonstrated my commitment by bringing my choir to perform – and performing myself – at Roundhouse Revival, Round One. BTW, the Steely Dan “Deacon Blues” that was playing as I typed this was quite inspirational.

A.C. Wharton, Jr., for Mayor:  (No vote for Yes, No or Undecided was posted on the website.) Note: I have never found anyone who wants to tear down the Coliseum and that includes me. My administration has an exceptional record of preserving and partnering to save buildings, including those in the Pinch District, Sears Crosstown, Artspace, Overton Square, Lauderdale Courts, 170 North Main, Chisca Hotel, and dozens of buildings that we’ve supported for PILOTs downtown. The Coliseum was closed when city and county governments turned down the request from the Coliseum Board to pay the building’s operating losses which were set at that time by a national auditing firm to be $1 million a year. In other words, the issue is finding a way to save it that can produce enough revenues to pay the costs of renovation and its operating costs. Our philosophy is always to find a way to repurpose older buildings, and we have evaluated all kinds of options for the Coliseum. Although the analyses of the building’s functionality and potential profitability have not been encouraging, we went the extra mile with an additional process that had never been done before to gather and consider any suggested uses from the public that are sustainable, profitable, and financeable. To that end, for the first time, City of Memphis brought in the National Charrette Institute and Urban Land Institute to gather more ideas from the public and to issue recommendations. We await the final report from ULI, and once it is received, we will continue to consider ways in which the Coliseum can contribute to a Fairgrounds vision funded by the TDZ (which is a funding source that doesn’t require any money from city budgets) and if this can be done, no one will celebrate it more than my administration.

Mary Wilder, for City Council District 5:  Yes. Note: I am not necessarily opposed to TDZ financing if there is a community based financially feasible study. I do want to find a way to save the coliseum as a small performance venue.

Keith Williams, for City Council District 3:  Yes. Note: The historical significance of this city is valuable and worthy of preservation. The coliseum can be used for any number of events and since the city owns it, why not restore it to its glory days and allow citizens to enjoy it.

Mike Williams, for Mayor:  Yes. Note: I have supported saving the Coliseum since the beginning, not for political purposes but because I am a musician and a citizen that does have ties to the Coliseum. I do not like going to the Landers Center. Not that it is a bad place but I should have a venue here that supports concerts of that size. I believe that as many citizens that are interested in saving this historical building. It is their tax dollars that will be used in the Fairgrounds Project, so their voices should be heard. I speak of it in all forums that I attend. I have it included in my handouts, on my website and as part of my vision. The Coliseum and I have history. I went to my first concert there. I played in the band there. I went to the wrestling matches as a child there. Yes I will do everything within my power to save and repurpose that facility.

Isaac Wright, for City Council District 8 Position 2: Yes. Note: I believe that we need to make significant upgrades and modernizations to most if not all of our aging infrastructure.

I am seeking to become one of your next city council members because I care about our city, our way of life now and the future that we will leave to our children. I believe I bring experience, values, character, and the dedication required to lead our city forward during this period of opportunity, change, and challenge.

I bring over 20 years of proven real world leadership experience with the federal government, including in-depth experience in personnel management, program and operations management, fiscal management and budgeting, business development, strategic planning, professional development and team building. Additionally, I bring experience as an entrepreneur and over 15 years as an instructor and trainer in leadership and management. I am an effective communicator with excellent interpersonal, verbal and written communication and presentation skills. I am patient and highly effective when working with diverse groups and personalities. I have the ability to work independently or as a member of a team.

I have a core set of principles and values that I believe to be of the utmost importance and I believe that elected officials have an obligation to listen to the viewpoints of others. I also believe that working with the other elected officials to do what is in the best interest of our city should be the highest priority of those elected to serve. It is imperative that leaders engage in productive dialogue without compromising their integrity or core values. Elected leaders must lead by example, modeling good character and upholding high moral standards.

IF A CANDIDATE’S NAME AND RESPONSE ARE NOT LISTED ABOVE, THEN THEY DID NOT RESPOND TO THE POLL QUESTION.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE POLL LETTER SENT TO ALL CANDIDATES

 

Preliminary version of Letter to the Editor by John T. Dulaney.

Below is an early version of a letter that was submitted for publication to The Commercial Appeal and was published on Wednesday September 9, 2015.

Letter to the editor *
To the Editor:

Two things struck me Monday when I read Kyle Veazey’s article about The Commercial Appeal’s recent poll. One is that voting Memphians disapproved of demolishing the Coliseum by a 2-to-1 margin, and the other is that nearly 90% of respondents had an opinion, one way or the other. This shows the electorate is extremely aware of the Fairgrounds/Coliseum issue, and that Mayoral candidates will continue to waffle or make bland non-meaningful campaign assurances about this topic at their peril. I’m talking to you especially, Harold Collins, Jim Strickland and A.C. Wharton. Others in the city’s Fairgrounds Tourism Development Zone clique might also want to rethink their positions, unless they like going down with a sinking ship.

For the record, members of the media were informed by the Memphis Heritage organization on August 3, more than a month ago, about results of an earlier poll of Memphis voters, of which The Commercial Appeal in particular took no notice. An independent group financed a telephone poll on July 9 to determine attitudes toward the City’s Fairgrounds redevelopment plan and its intention to demolish the Mid-South Coliseum. A large majority of more than 600 responders (66% to 11%) wished to renovate and repurpose the Coliseum instead of destroy it (about the same ratio that the National Charrette Institute reported on June 16, which was 85% to 15%). And a solid majority (48% to 25%) disapproved of the proposed Fairgrounds TDZ plan.

 

Please feel free to send comments to info@memphisheritage.org


DON NEWMAN