Championing the cause of the Mid-South Coliseum
The next round in the fight to save the historic wrestling venue
Of the Coliseum Coalition's many allies in the fight to save the Mid-South Coliseum, the wrestling community is among our strongest and most steadfast. Memphis Wresting head honcho Dustin Starr has had our back since day one!
And, yes, unfortunately, we're back to using the word "fight," because of the City of Memphis' new demolition plans. I won't spend this space detailing how bad of an idea Coliseum demolition is. You can likely rattle off your own list and I'm likely to be putting in time in the media spotlight making the case. Short summary: the Coliseum Coalition is not giving up!
Today, I want to thank the wrestling community and tell you just one of the behind-the-scenes wrestling stories that were part of championing the cause of the Coliseum.
It's 2019, and we had just wrapped up another Coliseum VIP tour. Four young buff dudes walk up.
"Hey, guys, can we help you?" I said.
They were wrestlers en route to Dyersburg, TN for matches that night.
"We just thought we'd swing through Memphis to stop by the Mid-South Coliseum to pay our respects," one of them said. Another of them, looking over my shoulder at the open bay door, said "We heard it closed - but is it open?"
I explained that we were the grassroots group who'd worked to save it, and that now we were working with the City to try to reopen it, and that we'd been giving a tour.
All of their eyes lit up.
"Man, can we go inside?!" I looked at Roy (Barnes, Coliseum Coalition president). Officially, they needed a waiver, but there was no way I could turn these young, earnest wrestlers away from their Mecca. Roy saw it in my eyes, and more importantly, in theirs. "Sure," we said at the same time.
Seconds later, we were all inside. As they looked up and saw the scoreboard, one said, "Oh my God, this is where it happened! This is where the ring would have been. Right. Here! Oh my God!"
They all posed for photos, shot a quick video or two. We talked a bit about how the effort was going. They were so glad to know the effort was happening. They were from another city, somewhere in the South - but had not been following the story. They all shook our hands and thanked us.
"Man, huge props for fighting to save this place. It means so much to so many of us." Then they left. They had to get to their matches. It was a perfect cap to a great tour for potential investors.
The very next day was the second volunteer Coliseum clean-up that we did with the City of Memphis and the nonprofit Clean Memphis.
Some sweeping and bagging trash like the first clean-up, but this time, we focused more on palletizing stored items and organizing. In the process, we upcycled, recycled and trashed a bunch of stuff. We had cleaned up all the broken glass at the first clean-up, but vandals had gotten in and broken more. A touch dispiriting, but moreover, it underscored the need for our work.
As we were finishing up, again we saw a group of young guys approach. They, too, were wrestlers passing through who planned a short side trip to see the Coliseum and pay their respects. This time, our friends from the City were with us, so I thought they'd want to play it a bit by the book, but they were cool and let the young wrestlers pop inside and briefly touch and feel a history that means so much to them.
What are the odds? Two days in a row. Two groups of wrestlers.
Imagine if Memphis had a reopened Mid-South Coliseum to draw wrestling fans in droves throughout the year. . . to matches, but also to a Memphis Wrestling Hall of Fame. No wonder the WWE listed the Coliseum #4 on its list of all-time significant sites for wrestling!
The sense of place is powerful and when a place has special history, a resonance with its people, it's magic, and it's irreplaceable.
There are a lot of reasons to continue to fight for the Coliseum, but most of us only need stories like this to know.
It may look like the heels have the upper hand on us. They have had us in a few 2-counts, but I can assure you. . . we have not yet lowered the strap.
The heels have underestimated just how many allies we have. The ring is about to get full, y'all. Thanks to all in the Memphis Wrestling community for what you've done so far, and for your help in the work that remains.
Marvin Stockwell is co-founder of the Coliseum Coalition.
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