News » The Fly-By

A Fair Deal?

Kansas company offers to lease Libertyland, but the Mid-South Fair has other plans.



There are a number of issues which Eugene Smith, the president of the board for the Mid-South Fair, is not entirely clear on. For example, whether he is actually president of the board.

When asked as much by the Flyer, he said, "Not that I know of. I may be and I don't know it."

Smith also said he had no knowledge of any outside investors interested in Libertyland, the local amusement park he and the board voted to liquidate last November.

But two weeks ago, T-REX Entertainment, a company based in Kansas, offered to lease Libertyland for $10,000 a month.

"The decision has been made to close Libertyland and sell the assets," Smith said, later acknowledging both the offer and his presidency. "I just want what is best for the [Mid-South] Fair and what is best for the city. I don't want anything else."

According to Rick Winchester, former president of the board and a member of the executive committee, Libertyland could be saved if three things were accomplished.

"You need a long-term lease. You would need an immediate influx of substantial funds. And you would need the support of the city and the county," Winchester said.

Steve Mulroy, co-founder of the advocacy group Save Libertyland, said these three criteria can be realized. "We have a substantial investor interested and the city now says it would be willing to talk about the possibility of granting Libertyland a long-term lease with a serious investor," Mulroy said.

Pete Aviotti, assistant to Mayor Willie Herenton, concurred. "If someone was interested, they would have to approach the city," Aviotti said.

Mulroy said two companies are interested: T-REX Entertainment, a development company that has rehabilitated theme parks in Detroit and Seattle, and another investor who wishes to remain anonymous for now.

Not all board members agree with Smith's position on the fate of Libertyland. Belinda Anderson, vice president of the board, said, "If someone had a check, I'm sure the board would be interested."

Winchester also believes Libertyland is worth saving. "I view it as an important institution in Memphis," he said. "It's a clean, safe, fun place to go, and for an awful lot of young people, a place to earn their first paycheck."

Yet neither Anderson nor Winchester had heard anything about the offer Robert Barnard, chief operating officer of T-REX Entertainment, presented to Smith last week. In fact, of the five executive committee members who spoke with the Flyer, only Smith had heard anything about the proposed deal.

According to Aviotti, the city's legal department is currently investigating whether they have partial ownership of any of Libertyland's rides or equipment before those items are sold at auction.

"We've got to move," Smith said. "We've got assets tied up [in Libertyland] and we need the revenue. We have plans to use that land for the Mid-South Fair."

Add a comment