Updated: Jul 22, 2018
In 2015 I'd gotten the wonderful opportunity to work with the Coliseum Coalition for its "Roundhouse Revival 2" advocacy campaign to reopen the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. The first Roundhouse Revival event had been held in May of that year with "Round 2" following not long after in October to keep up the momentum. I recall what an exciting time it was for this devoted grassroots, community led effort.
Beyond helping with event promotions, I conducted research and eligibility assessments for historic designations and endangered listings at the local, state and national levels. Through my role in helping with the PR/communications aspect of the campaign, I was able to connect with and cultivate the support of other preservation organizations not only in Memphis but those that were nationally and internationally based. In the nearly three years since, the Coliseum Coalition has been working diligently to make vital gains in public discourse favoring the Mid-South Coliseum's revival and they're back for Round 3 this Saturday, July 21st! The free family friendly event will be held in front of the coliseum featuring music, wrestling, basketball and vendors. Donations will be welcomed and put towards future events and continuing efforts to tell the City Administration (in the immortal words of James Brown) to "Open Up The Door!"
Constructed in 1963-64, the Mid-South Coliseum was a forerunner in the birth of arena rock in the early 1960s, preceding the Forum in Inglewood, California, that has been attributed to the early success in this evolution of popular music venues. It is the only remaining venue in Memphis that hosted performances by artists such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner, Led Zeppelin, Janice Joplin, The Who and countless others who shaped the sounds of the 1960s and 1970s. The coliseum also has a rich sports history (most notably in wrestling and basketball) and during the Jim Crow era was a democratizing force in the desegregation of public facilities in the mid-south as Memphis' first planned and constructed integrated public auditorium. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
A major obstacle in reopening the coliseum is the Memphis Grizzlies' 5,000-seat non-compete clause at FedExForum which has currently placed the city, the Grizzlies and the ever-expanding Elvis Presley Enterprises in a legal tussle. Only days ago Coliseum Coalition president Roy Barnes published an open letter to city officials with a new proposal for reopening the coliseum as part of the solution and key to the revitalization of the historic Mid-South Fairgrounds (per the city's "Tourism Development Zone" fairgrounds redevelopment plan), reflecting the voices and needs of the community as well as its substantial tourism economy.
WATCH: Coliseum Coalition spokesman Marvin Stockwell talks to ABC 24 Memphis about Roundhouse Revival 3 and the current challenges of reopening the Mid-South Coliseum: