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VOL. 133 | NO. 137 | Wednesday, July 11, 2018

More Detailed Fairgrounds Plan Includes Smaller Garage, Lower Priced Sports Site

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland plans to take a more specific $95 million to $100 million plan for Fairgrounds redevelopment to the City Council and Shelby County Commission in two weeks and the state building commission in Nashville in the fall.

The administration reviewed the specific plan with council members in Tuesday, July 10, committee sessions.

A $55 million to $60 million indoor sports complex with a parking garage where the old Libertyland amusement park once stood is the centerpiece of the Strickland administration’s Fairgrounds redevelopment plan. (City of Memphis)

The plan’s centerpiece is a 185,000 square foot indoor sports complex in the southwest corner of the Fairgrounds property, where Libertyland theme park once was. It comes with a 285-car garage attached to it at a total price of $55 million to $60 million – the largest item in terms of dollar figures in the proposal.

The garage includes a first floor dedicated to parking buses. And a lot with 300 spaces is planned next to the outdoor track and playing field that will be next to the indoor complex. The Libertyland site is now used to park 2,300 cars on game days at the Liberty Bowl.

The indoor center, south of the Mid-South Coliseum, would include a dozen basketball/volleyball courts, a banked indoor track and a set up that allows the venue to book trade shows and special events.

The neighboring outdoor complex would replace the current outdoor track and football field on the Central Avenue side.

The new layout, presented Tuesday by city housing and community development director Paul Young, has some of the general pieces of the project in different places at the Fairgrounds than they were at the end of 2017 when the administration presented its general plan.

The parking garage, originally with 500 spaces, was closer to Central Avenue frontage in the earlier plan. The indoor sports complex came in with an $80 million cost estimate then.

The Strickland administration presented a more detailed proposal for Fairgrounds redevelopment Tuesday, July 10, to the Memphis City Council. (city of Memphis)

As in the late 2017 plan, sales tax revenue captured in a Tourism Development Zone to be approved by the state building commission would be the major piece of financing for the redevelopment at $40 million to $50 million.

The administration says the city’s contribution to be used over 20 years on the Liberty Bowl and already planned for totals $10 million to $15 million. The city plans to raise $25 million to $35 million in philanthropic contributions, the funding provided by those using the facilities and naming and sponsorship rights. Tax credits are estimated at $4 million to $5 million with another $2 million to $4 million toward the garage from a “transit contribution”

The county commission vote would not be approval of the project. It would be a resolution of its opinion of the project, which is required by the state even if the commission is against the idea or neutral on it.

The city’s plan for commercial, retail, hotel and residential development on the Central Avenue frontage remains general in the new plan.

The plan unveiled Tuesday calls for a 10-year improvement plan for the Liberty Bowl stadium including replacing the west tower with the press box and suites. There would also be upgraded digital displays. All of the improvements to the stadium would be developed with the University of Memphis.

The detailed plan also includes improved lighting on the Southern Avenue underpasses, and renovation to the Pipkin and Creative Arts buildings.

The immediate plan holds to the recommendation of keeping the Mid-South Coliseum mothballed for now. But the administration’s presentation talks of a “future phase” that could include “private sector activation” of the arena.

The longer term plans also include improvements to nearby Tobey Park and better parking and renovation to Maxine Smith STEAM Academy on the southeast corner of Central Avenue and East Parkway.

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