Built in 1964, the Mid-South Coliseum was an entertainment and civic venue for multiple generations of Memphians. Parents who once witnessed Elvis strut across the stage also watched their kids cross the same stage at graduation. The Mid-South Coliseum was the first racially integrated public building in Memphis, and for many years it served as the city’s major indoor venue. Designed to hold up to ten thousand people, the coliseum now sits abandoned on the Mid-South Fairgrounds, just a thousand feet from the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
The coliseum’s first show was the Ringling Brothers Circus in late 1964, and it was host to many historic rock concerts over the years. The Beatles performed there in 1966 during their final American tour; Elvis preformed in 1974; and Celine Dion in 1997.
The coliseum was also well known in the professional wrestling world as the home base for the United States Wrestling Association. Pro wrestler Jerry Lawler headlined hundreds of shows at the Mid-South. To make a grand entrance, he was once precariously lowered on a rope 80 feet from a catwalk above the ceiling. Lawler also held an infamous fight against comedian Andy Kaufman at the coliseum. The fight sent Kaufman to the hospital, causing a rivalry between the two that escalated into a confrontation on the David Letterman Show in 1982.
Many other events took place there including hockey and indoor soccer matches, monster truck shows, and basketball games. It was home to the University of Memphis Tigers basketball team until the Pyramid opened and subsequently the FedEx Forum.
The Mid-South Coliseum was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, but because of the increased competition from other venues, upkeep, and the expense of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, the venue was closed by the city in 2006.
In recent years a group has formed with the intent of saving the facility and finding an alternate use for it. The Coliseum Coalition, headed by Charles “Chooch” Pickard, Roy Barnes, and Marvin Stockwell, has been working with the city and potential investors to explore ways to restore and begin using the venue once again. CLICK HERE for more information on the Coliseum Coalition and to help support their goal of re-opening the Mid-South Coliseum.