VOL. 131 | NO. 159 | Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Wiseacre Proposes Coliseum for Brewery
By Bill Dries
The owner of Wiseacre Brewery wants to put a 65,000-square-foot brewery – a $12 million investment – in the Mid-South Coliseum.
Frank Smith publicly pitched the idea to Memphis City Council members Tuesday, Aug. 9, during the council executive session.
Smith said the Broad Avenue brewery has expanded four times since its opening several years ago and is now at capacity again.
For the last year, the business has been exploring various options and wants to start construction in early 2017.
“It’s kind of a crazy idea,” Smith said, emphasizing that there are still architectural studies and engineering work to determine if it is feasible. “It’s something that’s never happened in the history of beer.”
Smith also made it clear that if the brewery were to happen, “there would never be a concert in the Mid-South Coliseum. There would never be another high school graduation in the Coliseum.”
The seating bowl of the Coliseum would be removed just as the seating bowl of The Pyramid was removed for the Bass Pro Shops re-adaptation.
Along with the brewery, Smith said other space could be used for restaurants, bowling lanes and climbing walls as well as some kind of tribute to the arena’s past.
“What an amazing game-day experience that might be,” Smith told the council.
Smith said he is mindful of the Coliseum’s past and the attachment to that past, and understands the council and the city may ultimately choose not to go the way of a brewery. Smith also expressed a desire not to see public opinion go against Wiseacre in the venture. He has talked with several Coliseum groups as he approached council members individually.
But council sentiment with 11 of the 13 council members present was enthusiastic.
“I don’t see any imminent plans, any funding, anybody who can come to the table now,” council member Martavius Jones said of plans to restore the Coliseum as an arena and concert venue.
The city’s General Services Division and Housing and Community Development Division are working with Wiseacre on the move to starting structural studies of the building to see if the plan is feasible.
So far, no council vote is planned on this proposal.
Smith said terms, like whether Wiseacre would lease the building or buy it, are still further down the road.