Friday, January 05, 2007

LIberty Bowl Memorial Parking Lot

Steve asked me to write this when I gave him my reasons why the mayor's ideas should be followed.

Five plus years ago when the Grizz were planning to come to town I was against it. Unlike almost everyone else, I was not for it because of the new arena being built. Well, I was against the new arena but for a different reason altogether. I was against it not for the tax payer expense but for a reason you won't expect.

Namely, a new arena for the Grizzlies would mean that the Liberty Bowl would not get replaced. I felt then and still do today that the stadium is antiquated and is a shithole outside of the playing surface. The bathrooms got updated recently but the concession stands menus look to be the only part of the whole concourse built post Rex Dockery.

In 2001, I had heard about the ADA lawsuits coming to a head. The city was going to have to pay to upgrade the stadium to meet the accessibility guidelines. Mostly in ramps and bathrooms, it would require extensive reworkings that would essentially remove the post 1987 upgrades that rose capacity to 66,000 and bring it back down to around 52 to 55 thousand.

At that time, Louisville had just opened three years earlier Papa Johns Stadium. A not state of the art but a very, very good stadium that could be easily upgraded and came equipped with things that they had been lacking. Luxury boxes for the boosters who donated the money that built the stadium, a press box for an up and coming football team that could accommodate more and better angles and broadcasters and interviews, and also a set of locker rooms and training rooms that were new, and not the closet sized one that was there before.

This cost them around 70 million. I had done a paper for a class that evaluated the impact of stadiums and financing on the cities and universities that conducted them. It was for both pro and collegiate and looked at the total impact. The overwhelming decision was that for pros it was a zero sum game. No real benefit was lost or gained. College though in new arenas built specifically for them received big increases to the athletic and general funds. It also produced an effect typically within around five years for these schools. Witness Rutgers, Pitt, UCF, Louisville, Maryland (basketball), Tigers (Pyramid and Forum), and several other schools.

Now, we can't build a new stadium for 70 million here. Louisville didn't have the demolition costs we are going to have with the Coliseum and the Liberty Bowl. However, we as a city need to give up the NFL dream. We lost it in 1992 when the NFL gave a team to Jacksonville because they promised to completely rebuild the Gator Bowl and make it virtually new and we were just going to renovate LBMS. I know there were other issues, but you can't lie to me and tell me that this didn't play a big factor, Hound Dogs Jesus Christ.

We aren't getting into the SEC either. We are in C-USA. We might end up in another conference because of basketball but unless the Tigers win consistently for the next ten years plus the SEC ain't bringing us in.

We need to embrace who we are as a University and as a city. You could build a very good stadium similar to PJ Stadium here with total costs of between 100 and 120 million. You put in extra locker rooms for the Classic and the Bowl game. You build extra suites. Remember, a lot of businesses are relocating here and it will be easier to get a box here then in Starkville or Oxford. You contact the right people, look at the Forum, on time and on budget.

The city is going to have to spend 50 million to upgrade the Stadium and Coliseum. Take that 50, and say to UofM, I'm sorry University of Memphis, I don't want to piss of any fans of Michigan or Montana, Ole Miss can go to hell, oh wait, you already have, here is half the cost that we were going to have to spend anyway, you raise the rest, you go over that in your find drive, we donate the money to the University's general scholarship fund, and not to this construction.

This way, you get the stadium done right, the only down I see is that you might have to sell the naming rights, Autozone I'm looking at you, so you lose Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, but you keep Rex Dockery Field by god. This will help make Memphis better as a football team, recruiting anyone, I've said it a hundred times, 35000 people looks half full when capacity is 66000, it looks pretty damn good when capacity is 55000. The Classic should receive a spike and the Liberty Bowl Game might not have to rely on corporate sponsors to buy all the tickets at a discount, they could sell more at full price. Only one game will be affected, Memphis vs the other UT, but hey, if this forces more people to buy season tickets and makes things harder on the Orange Goblins to get tickets, GO MEMPHIS.


At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your comments. Its time to let go of the bad memories of the past at Liberty Bowl Stadium(failed NFL try)and the Coliseum(Lawler vs Kaufman...need I say more)and do the right thing and help the U of M get a new stadium!

At 12:06 AM, Blogger Richmond said...

Well said. Perhaps in the next five to ten years we might get into some BCS Conference--the Big 12 is the only option I see since we ain't gonna git into the SEC-- and a two-thirds full stadium of 55 looks better than a half full edifice of 66.


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