MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Ground has officially been broken on a massive Memphis development project that is expected to bring thousands of visitors, and their wallets.
Work started Monday morning on Liberty Park at the old Fairgrounds, a 227,000-square foot center for athletics like no other in the region.
With a price tag of more than $200 million, Liberty Park won’t just be pretty to look at. City of Memphis officials frame it as an investment that will pay off.
“It’s also going to be a great economic opportunity for us, and with a great return on investment. Amateur and youth traveling sports is big business,” said Kevin Kane with Memphis Tourism.
The Memphis Sports and Events Center at Liberty Park will be able to host multiple tournaments simultaneously and will include permanent hardwood courts for basketball and volleyball, a 75,000-square-foot events pavilion for host sporting events, trade shows and graduations and a café with indoor and outdoor seating and space for community tenants.
Along Central Avenue, work will begin for an 18-acre mixed-use private development, which will house public plazas, hotels, retail and dining space, and residential apartments. Austin-based High 5 Entertainment will develop a 40,000-square-foot indoor arcade—complete with a bowling alley, bars and restaurant—and a 25,000-square-foot outdoor miniature golf course.
Along with commercial businesses and residential apartments, Liberty Park will host massive youth sports tournaments, from cheerleading and gymnastics to volleyball, basketball and fencing, Kane said.
The new sports complex will be built around the Liberty Bowl, a historic structure and landmark.
“Most people spent some time here and have some great memories about what they experienced here. This is just the next iteration of this,” Kane said.
One remaining question mark is what to do with the Mid-South Coliseum. Sitting in the middle of what will become the Fairgrounds complex, some local advocates like Marvin Stockwell, co-founder of the Coliseum Coalition, believe it could become the centerpiece for this futuristic youth sports palace.
“Imagine if the two winning teams that had played into the championship game could go play at a Larry Finch home court inside the Mid-South Coliseum,” Stockwell said. “There’s a lot of square footage in that building, and two separate assessments have shown that the building is in excellent shape.”
Liberty Park is expected to open during the fall of 2022.