City seeks designer for new 901 FC Stadium, with plans to demolish Mid-South Coliseum

Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 3:11 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - New documents posted to the City of Memphis website show the Strickland administration wants to tear down the Mid-South Coliseum and replace it with a new $52 million soccer stadium.

On Feb. 9, the City of Memphis submitted a Request for Information (RFI) seeking a designer for the stadium, which would serve primarily as the new home for Memphis 901 FC. There are also plans to host concerts and other events at the stadium, with a targeted completion date of 2025.

Click here to read the RFI documents.

The Coliseum closed in 2006, and those who’ve fought for nearly two decades to save it told Action News 5 they are shocked by the city’s plan to demolish an important part of Bluff City history.

The iconic venue opened in 1964, hosting big-name concerts by the Beatles, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Jay-Z. Jerry Lawler wrestled there, and Larry Finch and the 1973 Memphis State Tigers played their best ball there.

Today, Memphis is a soccer city.

901 FC averages more than 6,000 fans at every home game. Their base welcomes a state-of-the-art stadium, but saying goodbye to the Coliseum won’t be easy.

No one’s tried harder to repurpose the Mid-South Coliseum than Marvin Stockwell, co-founder of the Coliseum Coalition.

“We’re disappointed,” he said of the city’s decision to demo the building. “We think the Coliseum is an incredible civic asset. Two separate assessments have shown the building is in excellent shape, including the city’s own assessment.”

The Coliseum, Stockwell says, is where a Black caucus selected Willie Herenton as their consensus candidate for Memphis Mayor before his historic win as the city’s first Black-elected mayor in 1992.

In October, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the Mid-South Coliseum would be partially incorporated into the new proposed design and seat 10,000 people, plus another 5,000 for concerts. But the new RFI documents posted to the city’s website reveal the plan is to demolish the Coliseum and replace it with a $52.4 million multi-use stadium that would seat 6,500 to 8,000 people.

During his State of the State address, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s budget proposal included $350 million for Memphis to make improvements to FedExForum and Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium at Liberty Park. How a new soccer stadium would be funded is still up in the air.

901 FC’s front office visited with lawmakers in Nashville to talk about funding.

”We will continue to work with city and state leadership,” 901 FC President Craig Unger tweeted, “to secure the needed funds to make Memphis sports projects a reality.”

But it’s a reality Stockwell has a hard time wrapping his head around after working with city leaders for so many years to save the Coliseum.

“Of course, we could do this,” said Stockwell. “We live in a city that reopened Crosstown Concourse, turned the old Sears building into Crosstown Concourse. This is actually a much lighter lift. If you search your heart, you know it’s true.”

The city’s plan calls for a designer to meet the following quotas:

  1. Assemble and lead a team of qualified engineers and specialty design consultants.
  2. Comply with the City’s applicable Equal Business Opportunity Program.
  3. Creative design to comply with budget.
  4. Meet or exceed applicable USL Stadium Development Guidelines and best practices for soccer stadiums.
  5. Maximize program spaces and flexible use for all areas.
  6. Minimize operating costs and inefficiencies.

The city will hold a pre-submission meeting for interested architects on February 16.

The city hopes to select an architect by March 14, who would begin work two weeks later.

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