Coliseum Reuse Alternatives: Are We in Middle School?

coliseumSeptember 6, 2016 – Are we back in middle school?

That’s the question that occurred to this observer today. But no, it was not middle school students in view, it was Memphis City Council members.

So what brought to mind middle school? Smirks, rolling of eyes, snide comments while someone else was making his point.

It was one of the most disrespectful displays by a public body seen by this writer in years.

One might say that the presentation by the chief executive officer of the DSG Group, Brian Saulsberry, in his attempt to get the council to consider his proposal for renovation of the Mid South Coliseum was not very persuasive. It began on a discouraging note for DSG, it could never get the full digital slide presentation to display properly on a big video screen. That may or may not have been DSG’s fault, it could have also been the limitations of the City Council’s computer system. Nevertheless, Saulsberry pressed on, referring to the same images that were in a handout given to council members which would have been seen on the large screen. Unfortunately for DSG and for those who might wish the coliseum remain a public amenity, the presentation did not get much better and was received by council members even worse.

Regardless of the Saulsberry proposal, the smirks between council members, the rolling of eyes, and the snide comments were juvenile.

One of the worse offenders was Allan Wade, the contract attorney for the council. He frequently looked to council members and smirked, even once was seen rolling his eyes, as Saulsberry made his pitch. Council member Janis Fullilove was inclined to laugh during the presentation as Wade made faces. Council chairman Kemp Conrad looked over to Chief Operating Officer of the City Doug McGowen and smirked. McGowan smiled back. Council member Worth Morgan was seen smirking at other council members or attorney Wade while Saulsberry was speaking. Council member Philip Spinosa, Jr. went so far as to criticize Saulsberry’s pronunciation of council member Frank Colvett’s last name by Saulsberry and that the documentation DSG had provided misspelled the name of a building at the Fairgrounds (the Pipkin Building). Maybe, or maybe not, such errors are worthy of dismissing a proposal for the use of city property.

Smirking is a pejorative word which this writer is using a lot in this article. It seems to fit better than any other, however. Clearly there was not native humor in the subject matter. The smiles were of derision. Usually such a conclusion should not be made by an observer and relayed as such to readers. Typically the facts are presented and the reader is left to draw her/his own conclusion. In the case of facial expressions and the timing of these, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to relay to the reader the nature of those expressions without drawing the natural interpretation and referring to it in that way.

No matter how lame they may have thought the proposal by the DSG Group was, the behavior of some council members and their attorney was inappropriate and embarrassing for the citizens of Memphis.

Any alternative proposal for the use of the idle Mid South Coliseum as well as the commercial, private, for profit concept of Wiseacre Brewing deserved respectful attention, even if it falls far short of what a city official may think desirable.

Earlier this year council members listened to hours and hours of pitches from supposedly non-profit organizations that wanted money from the city, some pretty tenuous organizations with vague plans. No smirks were observed during these proposals.

The rapid acceptance by council members of the Wiseacre concept to convert the coliseum to a beer brewery already has to raise questions. Rarely has local government worked so fast. The behavior of council members to Saulsberry’s presentation before the “executive committee” of the council cannot but continue to make one wonder just what is going on.

At the formal council meeting later in the day, the council voted to adopt its minutes from its meeting two week ago which confirmed the city’s commitment to give a long term lease to Wiseacre Brewing to convert the Mid South Coliseum into a brewery. The beer maker now has 180 days to review the feasibility and to go forward or opt out of the deal.