Mid-South Fairgrounds overhaul plan advances

The Liberty Bowl is part of the planned upgrades at the fairgrounds.
The Liberty Bowl is part of the planned upgrades at the fairgrounds.
Published: Nov. 19, 2018 at 6:46 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The City of Memphis is one step closer to a major overhaul of the Mid-South Fairgrounds to make it a youth sports mecca.

A state committee in a key vote Monday morning in Nashville advanced the project forward.

The plans will be coming together in the coming months.

The city says it still must solicit private donations and sponsorships for it to become a reality.

“This is a very different project and a very much different approach than 2013,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

The commission gave the go-ahead for Memphis to turn the area around the fairgrounds into a tourism development zone, where sales tax revenues can be used to pay for construction or make improvements.

The $95-100 million redevelopment plan includes a 190,000 square foot indoor sports complex to host youth volleyball, track or basketball tournaments with room for retail and hotel opportunities.

“That part of town is so rich in history for all of the neighborhoods around it, it really is the heartbeat of midtown,” said City of Memphis COO Doug McGowen.

City leaders say they’ll have to go back to the state building commission once private funding is secured to approve issuance of bonds.

The mayor indicated Monday the project won’t move forward if the city doesn’t get the commitments.

“If there are no private dollars there will be no project,” Strickland said.

An overhaul of the Mid-South coliseum is not part of the official plans but coliseum advocates have remained upbeat in months past.

Leading tours of the building for investors are hopeful more money will follow.

“If there is a new idea to come out of this, it would be born because the fairground has new momentum and new investment happening in and around there,” McGowen said.

Native Memphian Robin Tucker lives a stone’s throw from the fairgrounds in Cooper Young and welcomes the property’s likely new identity.

“Any more added things just adding to the neighborhood, I think it’s so beautiful and I’m excited about it,” Tucker said.

City officials said they’d anticipate being back in front of the state building commission in nine months for that funding approval.

Dirt could be moving by the end of next year. The first pieces of the youth sports complex would likely be a year or more away.

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