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VOL. 10 | NO. 36 | Saturday, September 2, 2017

Editorial: Making the Case For Memphis Disorientation

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It can be a bit disorienting. Gateways – Bicentennial, Overton Park, even Binghampton. There’s that second convention center hotel. And Heartbreak Hotel in Whitehaven gives way to a $40 million, 6,000-seat arena that is most certainly not in Midtown or Downtown.

The next thing you know Tigers football at the Liberty Bowl will be consistently drawing 40,000-plus fans for home games and Sears Crosstown will be up and running again.

The Whitehaven arena may be the most radical indicator of the times we live in. After reformations of public education, civic boosterism and the Shelby County Democratic Party in the last seven years, changes in the at-times all-too-familiar physical terrain of where things are in Memphis was inevitable.

After decades of talking about the effects of bordering two states and other areas that seem to tailor themselves to what we don’t have – or what we do have that we shouldn’t, at least in the amounts we have it in – Memphis is starting to do something about it.

And it turns out such changes don’t come with a warm feeling of certainty and assurance that these are the right moves for all eternity. The first indication of that was when we listed the reformation of public education – an unquestionably historic change that remains controversial and whose ultimate effect is still being determined.

So, you may feel very uncertain about a Memphis in which Graceland starts to make concrete moves toward a professed goal of doing for Whitehaven what Disney did for Times Square in Manhattan.

Some of you are wondering why you couldn’t hold onto that rental house in Crosstown or Cooper-Young for a few more years. Maybe you’re thinking this is some kind of real estate bubble.

Could be. But what is happening in Memphis didn’t start overnight. It started with people taking small chances that got bigger, even as the rest of us were shaking our heads because those move didn’t correspond to the old map of Memphis.

This isn’t serendipity and it’s not paradise. These are the plans of people who aren’t putting it up to a vote of the whole city. Risk is involved, and failure is a possibility. So is more change along the way – the kind that adapts to things like a 10,000-seat amphitheater in Southaven that created a giant sucking sound in the Memphis concert market, which once punched way above its weight in the shows it drew.

This raises questions about the 50-plus-year-old Mid-South Coliseum, which some have hoped, and still hope, can return to its former glory as a 12,000-seat venue where several generations of Memphians have been entertained.

Maybe there’s room for two indoor venues in Memphis that split the difference in capacity between the 2,500-seat Orpheum and the 18,000-seat FedExForum. If there isn’t, it is not time to walk away from the table. That’s when things really start to get interesting around this place.

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