A new, hopeful shaft of light pierced the long-shuttered Mid-South Coliseum Tuesday as the Memphis City Council approved a deal that could once again fling the building’s doors wide open.
The council approved a 30-year lease on the building for Memphis-based Wiseacre Brewing. The company wants to expand its brewing operations in Memphis, and Wiseacre co-founder Frank Smith told the council about a month ago that he’d like for that expansion to happen in the Coliseum.
On Tuesday, the council approved a 30-year lease for Wiseacre, which has said it would invest $12 million into the project. Council chairman Kemp Conrad called it the city’s “best opportunity” for the building.
“As a reminder of last meeting’s action, the terms required by the council’s resolution include no city funds, a 30-year lease with renewal options, and an estimated $12 million dollar investment by Wiseacre,” Conrad said. “After years of vacancy, and more than six weeks of public hearings on proposals for the Coliseum, this council voted 12-1 in a clear signal that this is the best opportunity we have for bringing new life to this historical site.”
The company would pay the city $25,000 per month (or $300,000 per year) to rent the entire 104,000 square-foot Coliseum. Wiseacre would be responsible for bringing the aged building up to “well-lit shell conditions.” That means the Coliseum would be renovated with improvements to the walls, ceilings, heating and cooling, plumbing, and more. Wiseacre would invest $12 million to make the improvements and finish the space to its needs.
Smith told council members a month ago that the brewing operation would take up nearly the entire bottom portion of the arena.
“There will never be another concert in the Mid-South Coliseum again. No graduations,” Smith said.
But the deal is not yet complete. Wiseacre officials have up to six months to perform due diligence on the project. In the meantime, the company would give Memphis $25,000 in good faith funding. The money would be credited to the company’s rent if they move ahead; it would be given back if the company decides against the project.
But the company has said it would not use the entire building for its operations. Wiseacre would sub-lease parts of the concourse to other companies, retailers likely. The city’s deal would allow them sub-lease spaces but would take 30 percent of the rent proceeds they take in above Wiseacre’s $25,000 monthly rent payment.