Fairgrounds renovation plan could create parking issues for football games

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The City of Memphis is in the process of breathing new life into the 155-acre Mid-South fairgrounds. But some stakeholders who use the Liberty Bowl worry the new plans ignore what makes the grounds successful now: football games.

There are fears among those stakeholders that some parking on the site may be eliminated for good.

"If you take away parking spaces, our ability to put several thousand more people in the stadium will be compromised," Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones said.

Jones is taking issue with new proposals for the Mid-South fairgrounds. The city announced last week that officials are leaning toward making modifications to add youth sports facilities.

Jones said he's for improvements, but he's worried that the proposed improvements will remove up to 3,000 parking spaces. That would removing some areas used for tailgating and parking during the Southern Heritage Classic, an event with a $21 million dollar impact for Memphis.

"I have even a bigger concern for the Classic," Jones said. "Not only are we talking about parking, we're talking about traffic."

Jones is not alone. An official with AutoZone Liberty Bowl expressed concerns about the plans Wednesday. Thursday, a spokesperson for the athletic department at the University of Memphis said director Tom Bowen was out of town and didn't wish to comment.

However, the university indirectly noted their concerns over parking, as an official wrote in the statement: "I can add that we have sold out season ticket parking (the paved lots) for the first time in school history and we did sell out the Purple Lot (the grass lot) for the UCLA game."

In its presentation last week, City of Memphis officials said they intend to replace as many paved spots as they can with a new parking garage, but they're still considering options to deal with the unpaved spots eliminated on the old Libertyland site.

"We have always known and acknowledged that parking is a significant concern at the site. The City intends to replace as many paved parking spaces on the Fairgrounds as possible that are taken up by new buildings. The current concept includes a parking garage on the northern half of the site.
This garage could also support any retail, restaurants or hotel that might be built along Central Avenue. The City is still considering options to deal with the elimination of the unpaved parking spots on the old Libertyland site. Options include creating new parking lots nearby and running shuttle buses to satellite parking locations."

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