Behind the Headlines – November 3, 2017

Behind the Headlines – November 3, 2017


– (female narrator)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines is made possible in part by: the WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like you. Thank you. – Mothballing the Coliseum, changes at Overton Park, and remembering Bernal Smith, tonight on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes, publisher
of the Memphis Daily News. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight
by Toby Sells, news editor at
the Memphis Flyer. Thanks for being here. – Thank you, Eric. – Along with Bill
Dries, senior reporter, with the Memphis Daily News. We’ll talk about, there’s a whole lot
of news going on. I think the lead
story though Bill is the proposal which we’ll
get into more next week with Paul Young from
the city of Memphis when he’s on the show. But the city has started
to roll out its plan for the fairgrounds. And that includes the Coliseum. And I think for a lot of people
the Coliseum’s the headline because the mayor’s proposal, and I’ll let you
fill in the details, is essentially to
mothball the Coliseum. Not tear it down, but also not put
the money into it from this TDZ, this Tourism Development Zone, that some people wanted. So, tell us about the
Coliseum situation, then we’ll go into some of
the other parts of the plan of the fairgrounds. – Right, the city… The administration and
Mayor Jim Strickland says that they really don’t see a plan at this point that they want to
go down the road on and start operations. And actually, operating
the Coliseum again, as an active venue,
plays into this. Because the city said
before we do that, before we have this
ongoing expense, we want to make sure
we’ve got the best plan. And they’re just not
sure that being part of a youth sports facility
or complex on the fairgrounds is actually the direction
that they want to go with the Coliseum. There might be some
other direction. So for the interim, until they have time
to devote to that, they’re gonna concentrate on
some other parts of the plan. And much to, I think, a
lot of people’s surprise, a lot of those other parts are not on the
fairgrounds proper. They’re outside of the
fairgrounds boundaries in the neighborhoods around it. Orange Mound is what
comes to mind immediately. There’s an access
issue there because there is a railroad yard between the fairgrounds
and Orange Mound to the south. Well the city wants to
improve the entrances that go under the railroad
yard into the neighborhoods. It also is going to explore
using old Melrose High School as some kind of facility
that’s connected to what happens
at the fairgrounds in terms of youth
sports tournaments. But the really big
philosophical thing here is that the city is
trying to balance hosting these tournaments, which bring in a lot of money, and a lot of people
from out of town for regional and national
sports and amateur tournaments, with every day use by Memphians. Because right out of the gate, during the Harrington
administration and into the Wharton
administration, they made such a push
about these tournaments that it created this
backlash among Memphians who were saying, “Well okay, you’re doing this “for other people who come here, not for Memphians.” – And this youth sports, I mean it is its own business. And people with kids
who had kids play in these competitive leagues, jokingly called
professional sports by some. It’s expensive. Travel baseball,
travel volleyball, travel soccer. And you go around from
tournament to tournament. And that’s what they’re talking. They’re talking about on
the old Libertyland area. Is it $80 million? As much as $80 million. They don’t have a vendor yet. There’s still a lot
to be filled in. But that seems to be, they’re all in on
the youth sports, and what that will do in
terms of bringing people and tourism dollars. All this is based on the TDZ. And we talked about
it I think last week in terms of the downtown TDZ, which is sales tax money
that goes to the state that otherwise would stay
with the state coffers but comes back. Do I have that right Bill? – Yeah, to finance
the development, the public part of
the development there. – Right, so downtown they’re
using it for things like the Riverfront, things like the Pinch District, all kinds of things down there. That’s what they’re
talking about here. And they’ve always, to
tap into that money, they’ve always had
this challenge of well we’ve gotta do something
that’s gonna generate new sales tax dollars. Because that’s what you get. You get the money that is new
over and above the baseline. So the youth sports, we had Kevin Kane on before
talking about all that. And it is interesting
that $40 million, they’ve earmarked, Toby,
for the neighborhood. So Cooper Young,
Orange Mound, access, I think that’s dif… As Bill said, that
feels different to me than things we’ve heard before where it was all about what’s
gonna be on the fairgrounds. This is more about at least
an effort to integrate all the neighborhoods, integrate the fairgrounds
into all the neighborhoods and vice versa. – Right, but it’s still gonna be a tight rope to walk, I think. To Bill’s point, the entire project
is $160 million. Half of that is just for that exclusive playground over there for these travel teams for the youth sports facility. And at this point we’re
still reading the tea leaves because the final plan
doesn’t come out until Monday. And maybe after that, things
will be a little different. But just kind of
connecting a few dots that came out this week. Earlier this week, Mayor Jim
Strickland was talking about how much money it costs to
be on these travel teams, how much money they
might bring in. So there’s already
kind of shows you how much income you have to
have to play these things. And then on Wednesday, Paul
Young was talking about it. And he said that we
do want more access for people in the
surrounding neighborhoods. But said specifically that
the youth sports facility would be out of bounds
for neighborhood kids. So it’s not really
doing anything. – (Eric) Unless
they’re on one of those teams. – Unless they’re on
one of those teams. So it’s not that part, half of the entire thing is
not doing anything directly for the kids in Orange
Mound, or Cooper Young, or Beltline. So we’re in a state now
where we’re talking about, you know we’re fighting for
tens of thousands of dollars for inclusivity on Beale Street, for the Beale Street
Bucks program. And they’re
proposing $80 million of exclusivity over there for the fairgrounds. It’s gonna be a careful
debate to watch. – Yeah, and for
people who don’t know. I would say personally, one of my children did travel volleyball. I mean it was… it was a lot. It was a couple thousand bucks just to be on the team. And then you travel, so
you’re staying in hotels, and you’re going to restaurants. And that’s what they’re
trying to tap into. We did it one year
and only one year. But people do it and
it is a big business. And there is a sense that, well
we’re missing out on that. What that could then fund, and people like Kevin Kane from the Convention
& Visitors Bureau, and other advocates have said is it then helps to
fund the infrastructure. It helps to fund things like well you know they’re
gonna put hotel, we’re gonna put maybe
a little bit of retail on the Central Avenue part. And again, Paul Young eluded to, to be fair to him, and again, he’ll be on the show next week. He eluded to amenities that
would be for the neighborhood, that it would not
just be an exclusive youth sports facility. And I think you’re right. We’ll know more about
that youth sports facility and who’s going to run that and what the details
of the business plan. We’ll know that I
think in December. Is that right, Bill? – Yeah, they’re doing a
proforma on all of that. They have an expert,
a consultant, whose come in to work with him. So it’s a little
later time frame. They won’t have that
in until December. That will influence
the proposal they take to the state building commission to actually activate the
tourism development zone. And that’ll be in
Nashville come January. – And let’s come full
circle back to the Coliseum. And Toby, you and I, and some other folks
were on a tour, the Coliseum Coalition, kind of an advocacy
group that has put out a full business plan, has been arguing for, I’ve had Chooch Pickard
and others on the show over the last few years, that the Coliseum be renovated. They were very
disappointed in this plan in the sense that it did not take any of that TDZ money and put it into the Coliseum for all the sort of ideas
that they put forward. It does not, however,
tear the Coliseum down, which was a fear
of other people. If there’s a
middle path in this, the city seemed to try. And basically, they said
it was partly economic. $8 to $10 million
to tear down the Coliseum. The city has it at what,
$30 to $40 million. to truly renovate the Coliseum. The Coliseum Coalition
thinks it can be done for more like $20-$25 million. But instead, for $500,000, they repair the roof, and they kind of mothball it. And they essentially push
the decision down the road. – Right, and like you said, it’s a middle ground. When we were in there, it looks like somebody
held an event in there a year ago and walked away. I’m no structural engineer. It looks solid, it looks safe. But again, I don’t know
all the ins and outs of all that stuff. The Coalition, those folks, they seem to think that it could easily be brought
up to ADA standards and everything else. But it’ll be interesting to see, ’cause Paul Young
said yesterday that he wants to work with them to come up with a business plan, to come up with a
plan for the Coliseum. So it’ll be interesting
to see if those two groups actually get together and
come up with a solution. – It also gets in, and we’ve talked about this, and we’ve obviously
written about it, you get back to the
Grizzlies, Bill. And the Grizzlies
have this right. And I’m gonna screw it up. But basically, they got in their deal, their agreement
for the FedExForum, that any facility more
than about 5,000 seats, anything over that can’t
be built with public money without their permission. Did I say that correctly? – Yeah, and there
are some differences on the interpretation
of the exact language. Is it a right of first refusal. Well, under the
working interpretation that the Grizzlies
seem to be using, it’s more than that. It’s no, you can’t
do a venue that is 5,000 seats plus. – And this came up when
Elvis Presley Enterprises proposed and then
pulled back from a proposal to do an arena that would be around 5,000
seats down by Graceland. – This is not people saying, “Oh there’s that language, we better not cross that line.” This is someone who’s
actually had experience with the Grizzlies saying, “We’re enforcing the
agreement on it.” So it played some role. It was out there. But the city’s position is that that is not what
has been driving the Coliseum plans ultimately, that there does need to
be some downsizing of it. But by the same token, they’re not necessarily sold on the idea of a 5,000 seat
venue for sports tournaments that would have maybe three
courts in the Coliseum which is not enough for one
of these tournament sites. But you build an annex
onto the Coliseum, and then you have even
more courts there. – And they’ve talked, I mean, Toby to go through, and I know you’ve gone
through their too, Bill. But we just so happened
to do it together. I mean their enthusiasm, their love of that place, the memories of bands
that were there, this is where the dressing room where Jerry Lawler
would get ready. This is where the Beatles were. I mean, you do kinda… I mean I honestly kinda
got swept up in it. There’s a part of me
that says oh my gosh, there’s so much history here, and people have all these
memories of first concerts, and best concerts and so on. That then pushes up against
the hard realities of does the city need
another arena? Does it fit with
the youth sports? Is the city in the
business right now, even though it’s TDZ money, of putting $30 or $40 million towards this other arena. It’s such a tough one. – It is, and the
Coalition has always said that we’re not in
this for nostalgia. You know, this is a big amenity. There are a lot
of memories here. And a lot of folks
have great memories. But we’re in it for kind
of historic preservation. This is a great, solid building, that could be good for Midtown, and good for Greater Memphis. And that’s the reason
when they came up with their business plan, they said it’s
mainly youth sports, it’s for graduations, concerts, all
those other things, are kind of secondary, tertiary. So they’re trying to
build a business model, not to say that
we’re in this thing because we have
such great memories but it’s something great here. – All right, more on that again. And Paul Young will
be on next week to talk about that and other
things going on with the city. We’ll switch to Overton Park. In the biggest sense,
I’ll go to you Bill. There’s a whole lot going on. As I always have to note that I am currently
on the board. I’m chair of the board of
the Overton Park Conservancy, which is a part of the park, the forest, and the green spaces and
the Greensward certainly. But there’s a lot of news. This time, it doesn’t really
involve the Conservancy. It doesn’t involve the zoo. It involves the Brooks, which I don’t think we’ve
had a chance to talk about on the show. But people know that
the Brooks has proposed, is looking at this
move downtown. We talked about it with some
folks I think last week, and with the Mayor recently, that moving downtown to a site
where the fire station is, overlooking the river, really sort of
transformative, big project, leaving behind the
facility in Overton Park. And then, what a week or so ago, Memphis College of Art, it had been rumored and
had been talked about, announced that they are
gonna close their doors. They’re gonna finish out kind
of the students who are there. It’s a two year wind down. They just have found… Your article, I read
articles in the Flyer, seen the statements. It’s just not (clearing throat), excuse me, a business model
that’s working for them. – Yeah, so what’s actually happened, and I never thought
I would see the day, but the issue of zoo parking has actually taken a
back seat in all of this. So, meanwhile the
plans for that zoo, expanded parking area, are taking shape. And that’s moving forward. At the same time, the Conservancy, as you know, has embarked on a
park master plan just in time for the Brooks surfacing with the
plans to leave the park. And they’re talking
with the city about a Riverfront location. And then added to that, the Memphis College of Art. Two very iconic buildings in the life of Overton Park. Two very iconic institutions in the history of the park. So there are a whole
world of possibilities that now open up with this, and a whole series
of discussions. What happens with what
I call the marble box that has been the only home
that that Brooks Museum has ever had in its
100 years of existence? What happens with the Memphis
College of Arts building that has been the home
of that institution since the late 1950s that was designed
by Roy Harrover? A very familiar looking design done by an architect whose
done a lot of landmark work here in the city. – Toby, your
thoughts on all this. – Just the other
thing is that the City of Memphis General Services is gonna move out of that
Southeast lot over there. And that’s gonna free up what, 16 acres of park land
on that corner too. So last year if
were on this show, we would have been talking
that there’s no space, zero space at Overton
Park whatsoever. And then all of a sudden there’s all these things opening up. And it’s been kind of
a wild ride to watch. And it’s gonna be a
really interesting, challenging future I think for the leaders of
the park over there. But we’ll see how
they’re doing it. But who could have
imagined that the Brooks and that MCA might have
been looking to leave? And MCA too. They’re like a lot of these
kind of colleges around. It’s not just them. There’s a lot of these
small art colleges around the country
having the same issues. – And part of what hit them
was a combination of things. The recession certainly
hits in the middle of this. They had expanded, they bought a building
downtown on South Front. – South Main.
– South Main, thank you. – Where they had the
graduate programs. They then pulled back from that. That’s about to be
turned into a hotel. But they built, excuse me, they bought, some housing along Poplar, on what would that be,
the south side of Poplar. There’s a fair amount of debt. And I think that was
part of the problem. And then they did not have
the student population, or the admission population, to support the debt. I think they’d gone
around and tried to look at some partnerships and so on. And then finally the board
made the tough decision to close it down. – And there are
some possibilities. I think the one that has
been talked about the most and that came up
pretty much immediately as soon as Brooks
made its decision to move toward moving
on the Riverfront, is that the Brooks that’s left in
the park, the building, may be the home for
an Eggleston museum, which we’ve certainly heard
a lot of discussion about over the years, a museum with the archives
of the photographer William Eggleston in it, which had been talked about going onto the city
maintenance yard once it’s cleared out on
the East Parkway side. Well suddenly you have several
possible sites for that in the park. – We’ll move onto
some other news there. And again, we’ll
do another show. You’re writing, everybody’s
writing about it. And it is interesting
with everything going on with the buildings. The last thought
for me on that is the amount of rumors and then the conspiracy
theories on social media. I mean it is interesting
to have been, through my work with the park, and some off the
record conversations, there’s more of a plan
than it sometimes seems, I think publicly. But it is, obviously, it’s a real shot to
the gut and the psyche when two institutions like that look like they’re just up
and leaving simultaneously. (clearing throat) Excuse me. We’ll move to elections. It is an election
year next year, Bill. And it’s gonna be one
that’s a pretty big deal between the governors race, now the senate race
is gonna be a big deal with Corker dropping out. And we’ve got local
county mayor race that’s looking more
and more interesting. Where do you want to start? – I’ll start with
the local races, the races for county office because those are the races
that are now starting to come to life. Between now and Thanksgiving, a lot of these candidates
in these local county races are coming out and saying hey, I’m declaring I’m
running for this. Because what they’re doing
is getting voter’s attention at this point before
the holidays kick in. And then on the other
side of the holidays, they’ll be back and
start what I call the hand to hand campaigning. You can’t pull out. You can’t pull a
qualifying petition until a couple of weeks from now. And the primaries for the
county offices are in May. So that’s kind of the timeline
that we’re dealing with. August is the primaries for
the state and federal offices. And you’re gonna see some
very spirited local races. There are all kinds
of theories and axioms about what having a
racing for governor, and a race for the US Senate, two statewide races
on the ballot means, which party does it benefit. Basically, you are gonna
see a pretty heavy influence of what’s happening
in Washington on these elections, and the nature of how the two
parties go about those races. – And part of that that could reflect back
on these local races is if former governor, Democratic Governor
Phil Bredesen, gets in the race for Senate. Right, that is… And democrats are out there
hoping, hoping, hoping, because one he’s a
very wealthy guy, so he could put a
lot of money into it, and he’s got name recognition and positive numbers with independents and even
some Republicans. – And at this point it’s
just being bandied about. He’s not said one
way or the other. He said, “I’m gonna
leave it as a prospect”, and kind of left
it on the table. But that’s left some others
in a holding pattern. I know Andy Berke is the
Mayor of Chattanooga. He’s kind of pulling back to see what Bredesen’s gonna do. But they look at his numbers. They look, I was
reading this morning. In 2006, Bredesen, a democrat, won all 95 counties
in Tennessee. And that’s just
unheard of these days. And he’s 73, he’s been out of the
spotlight for a little while. And if he came back, that would really
shake up that race and show any sign of life at
all on the Democratic side. – On the other side of
this with the Republicans, you have what shapes up to
be a pretty fractious race in the Republican Senate Primary between congresswoman
Marsha Blackburn, and former congressman
Stephen Fincher. You have two very
conservative candidates in that primary. But very different
kinds of conservatism in it. In the governor’s race, you have a six-way race
in the Republican Primary, and there are
already some sparks among several of the
contenders in that as well. So, pretty lively on
both sides of this. Actually, the Democratic
Primary for governor appears to be kind
of the most placid of the contests
we’re talking about. – Karl Dean, the former
mayor of Nashville, is pretty far ahead. I’m looking at results from… MTSU did a poll recently. He was very far ahead
of Craig Fitzhugh, who’s the house member, the state house member from
Jackson, West Tennessee. – From Ripley.
– Ripley, thank you. – The closest thing to a Memphis contender in any of these races. – But again, to this MTSU poll, I mean you talked
about the six people for Republicans for governor. You’ve got Diane Black, you’ve got Beth Harwell, you’ve got Randy Boyd, you’ve got Mae Beavers, Bill Lee, and I’m probably leaving
somebody out there. But all having… This poll just looked at do you
have positive views of them. They were all… Do you have name recognition? It was interesting. And it’s gonna be a tight race. They’re doing forums now, right. They’ve started doing some
debating, some forums. That will heat up
especially right after the first of the year. – Yeah, they’ve done two
where you had all six there and you really have a lot
of different views on this. And you have a lot of
sparks in particular between Diane Black and between Randy Boyd in that race. That’ll spread out over time. – And you’ve got, somebody
pointed out to me, you’ve got the whole dynamic, we talked about the
national influence when Donald Trump is tweeting… Mae Beavers is probably more
on the Donald Trump camp of conservatism. She’s a senate,
state senate member. But he was tweeting
very positive things, I think recently
about Diane Black who’s the Republican
conservative house member from somewhere around
the Nashville area. – From Gallatin.
– Gallatin, thank you. – I mean that Trump
enters the race on some level in Tennessee. – Absolutely. And it’ll be
interesting to watch. And if you want to look at the county mayor election even. You know, when you’ve
got Terry Roland who was his guy. And was he over all of? – West Tennessee.
– Just West Tennessee. – You know, heating
up that race. And a lot of folks have
that right now as kind of Terry Roland, and Lee Harris, and then probably David Lenoir. But Terry Roland is
certainly the far right contender in that race. And Jackson Baker was right that that race could
get shaken up later with some other shoes to drop. He wrote this week that
maybe Shea Flinn would run as an independent. Maybe Harold Byrd, Bank
of Bartlett president. So there’s still, yeah, a lot of shoes
to drop this season. – And Lee Harris, did we say that already,
sorry if you did. Lee Harris, the democratic, used to be city council, now state senator, he declared on the
democratic side, which is also in for it. – He’s been running
for three weeks. He’s now doing fundraisers. And in fact, he told
a group of supporters, this week in Victorian Village, that the Trump
model for government which he described
as “break things”, is going to be a heavy influence on what happens in that race. – And last here, just for the couple
minutes left, I think people maybe have seen, we made note of it
on last week’s show ’cause we had
pre-taped that show. We couldn’t get a
full segment in. Bernal Smith, who
was the publisher of the Tri-State Defender, a frequent member
of this round table when we would do these
roughly once a month, passed away. Just a tragedy. I was shocked. I think everybody was shocked. 45 years old. Three children, wife. I mean it was just, so awful, and so shocking. Thoughts, Bill. – Well I think his contribution, first of all in resurrecting
the new Tri-State Defender. People who aren’t
in the business, I don’t think know
what a big achievement just that was. But he also took his
place in what I think all of us have been trying to
do in the last 10 years or so and that is push ahead this new reality
in print media in this town and that there’s no longer
just one dominant voice about the way things go and the way things ought to be. Editorially, there are many voices, and all of us have
been a part of that. And Bernal really helped to bring that new day closer. – Toby, thoughts. – Oh, I just love
what Bill said. And I believe every bit of it. Personally, I met him
right here on this stage and have gotten to know
him over the years. I admire the way
the man thought. He thought clearly,
spoke clearly. And sometimes, unabashedly, sometimes he was
unafraid to get out there and say things that
needed to be said. He is missed. – It is, to what Bill’s saying, this model of you know, he was an advocate publisher. And he was very… Didn’t matter where you… Bernal was everywhere. I mean you’d see him
at business events, you’d see him at civic events. He was listening and
he was a local guy. I mean Rhodes graduate, and to be at his funeral, Natalie Chandler and I, the producer of the show went. It was an amazing celebration. His friends, and I
mean it was very sad. But it was an
amazing celebration. But again, and we tried
to have Karanja Ajanaku, the editor of Tri-State
Associate Publisher, he could not. He wanted to be here,
but he couldn’t do that. But it is an interesting
time in local media. I mean, local, local. The CA, I think the
newsroom now is under 30 by count of someone
told me recently. So I think that is
the model as Bill said that going forward and
it’ll be interesting to see. But that is all
the time we have. Thank you guys for being here. Thank you for joining us. Join us again, next week. [acoustic guitar chords]

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