Liberty Lives On
Well it seems the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium may be given a pardon. The word is Mayor Herenton is reconsidering his 2007 New Year’s announcement to tear down the stadium and build a new one. From the beginning I argued that in a city that is as financially strapped as Memphis in no way could we afford such an expense. Now I don’t begrudge the Mayor for being a visionary leader, in part that’s his job, but the numbers nor support never really seem to be there. This was all set in motion because of the need to meet the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) which requires such facilities to meet accessibility standards, for those who are physically challenged, as published in the Title III regulations.
There were three options being tossed around (pun intended):
First choice, we retrofit the Liberty Bowl to meet ADA. The price tag for this could be between 10 and 30 million. The argument against this is that the Liberty Bowl is over 40 years old and the modification will cost the loss of some seats, but how often is this stadium sold out and there are many building far older and still functioning very well.
Second choice, we build a new stadium. The Mayor gave a conservative price around $100 million. Here’s a sure-fast rule to city projects – whatever the cost double it. The City’s own consultants prove that to be true when they returned with an unwelcome assessment that building a new stadium would cost $200 million. Again I would have no problem with a new stadium if… One, this City was a bigger supporter of sports. Remember when the Oilers were here and decided to pull out a year early because of poor attendance? Two, this City was not facing so many critical financial issues. I know the Mayor said these funds would come from private donor, and if he can pull that off, more power to him. I for one would like to hear some type of commitment from these donors before the bulldozers start rolling. Also when the Memphis Rebounders’ President Harold Byrd, a powerful and justly respected voice stated a need to look into the University of Memphis building its own stadium you have to take that seriously.
Third choice, and way out of left field was the suggestion that Memphis go all the way and build a state-of-the-art mega stadium to attract a NFL team. The price tag would be around $300 to $500 million. I kid you not. There were several prominent people floating this idea.
Clearly the only realistic option is for Memphis to bring the Liberty Bowl up to ADA specifications. It may not be glamorous, and it may not be innovative, but it is what we need to do.