Mid-South Fairgrounds, which the city purchased in 1897 for the horse
racing track Montgomery Park, was first used as a fairgrounds in 1912
when the Tri-State Fair as it was then known moved from another Memphis
location. With the closing of the Fair's 2008 edition, the 168-acre
Fairgrounds begin its conversion into something else, just what is
not completely clear 2 years later. Long term contracts for the use of
the Fairgrounds were not renewed by the city as they expired. The Mid-South Fair was forced to move after its contract ran out, a long running monthly flea market got the same deal.
A developer proposed mixed commercial, residential, and open space for some of the remainder of the land but a competing proposal for development with less commercial and more open public space is now also on the table. Major structures like Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium will remain. The future of the Mid-South Coliseum is questionable as it no longer is being used for public events. Libertyland, the 1976 renovation of the Fairgrounds, closed after its 2005 season and the rides and many of the structures have been removed.
The latest plan, revealed in January, 2011, by the administration of Memphis mayor AC Wharton, is for an "urban village." The proposal calls for a 5,000-seat, multi-use arena, basketball courts, soccer fields and improvements to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, along with commercial developments. According to Robert Lipscomb, the city's director of Housing and Community Development, retail establishments on the property could contribute up to $140-million for the new facilities. About the Mid-South Coliseum, Lipscomb is quoted as saying, "it has numerous safety and code issues, and it has asbestos throughout... It cannot compete with more modern facilities."
The initial impetus for the changes seemed to be an offer by the Salvation Army to build, by providing $2 for every $1 Memphis provided, one of its Kroc Centers. A Salvation Army Kroc Center is now under construction on 15 acres of the land that was previously the Fairgounds. It expected to open in late 2011, offering a community center with worship areas, two gymnasiums, indoor aquatics, multi-purpose rooms and a fitness center. It will take 15 acres of the 168 site.
Another new feature of the old amusement park land is "Tiger Lane." It's a roadway, greenspace, and parking space from East Parkway to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The roadway and greenspace from the stadium to East Parkway takes 7 acres. It is designed as a place for those attending football games at the stadium to tailgate before, during, and after the game. Since the University of Memphis Tigers is the primary tenet of the Liberty Bowl, the new feature is called "Tiger Lane." Parking spaces, including RV hookups, are pre-sold in and around Tiger Lane. The lane, additional roadways, and parking areas were constructed for $15-million and were open for the 2010 football season.
As noted previously, the fate of the Mid-South Coliseum is in doubt. With the January, 2011, comments from the city's director of Housing and Community Development, this is listing the Coliseum into the threatened category.
The Mid-South Fair and Libertyland have their own pages on this site.