The Mid-South Coliseum – Memphis, TN

 

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 historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

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 historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

The historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

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.

 

The historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

The historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

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 historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

The historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

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.

 

The historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

The historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

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.

 

The historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

3 Comments

  1. William Moore

    I not only worked at The Coliseum I attended 100’s of concerts and Tiger games, circuses, Ice Shows etc over the years with my family and friends. Even though the Tigers moved on to The Pyramid and now the Fed Ex Forum, this was the best home court advantage the Tigers ever had. I saw Elvis here in 75. I loved this arena and wish there was some way to use it now.

  2. Athena Baker

    Because I’m not local to Memphis, I can’t 100% resonant with Memphians. However, I am pleased to read that there are folks who want to save the coliseum.

    Just recently, the old Sears building in Midtown became Crosstown Concourse, which is basically a living, arts, and education facility (expensive to rent and buy stuf at albeit, but still…). It’s nice to know that Memphians take a lot of pride in their city. 🙂

    P.S. I starred in episode 2 of “Bluff City Law” as an extra in the diner scene. I wore a green blouse and thought it’d be cute if I pretended to be a Japanese foreign exchange trying to impress a girl. During that scene, as soon as the waiter said, “The secret ingredient is…cumin,” I honestly thought he said, “human,” because his accent was a little hard to understand, ha ha!

  3. Fred Buran

    Lived in Memphis from 2000-2017. Worked at Coca-Cola by the Liberty Bowland saw the Coliseum daily. I hope it can be saved.

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