Cheaper, Better, Sooner

Ten football stadium suggestions for the mayor. (Free!)

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1) Go to some football games at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Buy a ticket at the gate. Don't use your parking pass. Haggle with the guys on East Parkway instead. Sit with the ordinary fans at a Conference USA game. Use the public bathrooms at least twice even if you don't have to go. Buy something to eat and drink but don't send someone else to get it. Walk all the way around the stadium from the inside and the outside.

2) Go to a special game that draws a bigger crowd. Sit in a skybox. Eat the food. Talk to the other people. Visit the locker room and the press box. Say hi to the poor, suffering reporters in their terribly cramped quarters and see if you can honestly generate one ounce of sympathy for them. Talk to the coach of the visiting team. If you are not a football fan and never go to games, that's fine, but of course you don't advertise that. Uh, right?

3) Watch a game on television, which is where most of the revenue comes from. Notice how the cameras are focused on the players and the field, not the empty seats, locker rooms, concessions, or bathrooms.

4) Go to a high school football playoff game at the field on Central Avenue in the Mid-South Fairgrounds. Stand in line for 20 minutes with 100 other people while a single ticket-seller in a cage behind a window collects your $6 and a single ticket-taker lets you through the single four-foot-wide gate that is open. Watch most of the first quarter through the fence behind the end zone while standing in this line. Imagine you rode three hours from Brentwood on a bus. Then ask yourself what the hell is wrong with this picture.

5) If you're not going to football games, watch Trading Spaces on television. A designer and some carpenters with more creativity and energy than money ($1,000) turn an ordinary room in an ordinary house into a cool room. The owners cry when they see it. Usually they're glad, sometimes they're mortified, but either way, they get a makeover on the cheap.

6) Get the University of Memphis and promoter Fred Jones to choose half a dozen architects and designers to play Trading Spaces with the skyboxes. Give them each $10,000 and free publicity. Then get the U of M to hire half a dozen caterers to compete for the title of Best Caterer for the skyboxes. Give them each $1,000 and free publicity. Total outlay: $66,000.

7) Spend $1 million to buy up blighted property near the stadium. It's a start. Hire a landscape architecture firm to demolish the old cattle stalls outside the stadium and replace them with something that looks nice. Now. Remember, it's just a start. Then tear down the Coliseum, which has nothing to do with the stadium. This will take a little longer, but it's worth it. Tell anyone who complains that they can have a free ticket to The Pyramid.

8) Instead of trashing it, try the adjectives "historic" and "different" on for size when describing the stadium and its graceful curves. At 41 years old, it's younger than Soldier Field, the Big House in Ann Arbor, the Coliseum in L.A., the Rose Bowl, and thousands of perfectly good buildings and houses in Memphis. Think trash into treasure. Make sarcastic remarks about "cookie-cutter" stadiums built on the cheap. Then ask why this stadium isn't just fine for eight or nine games a year against the likes of Chattanooga and Tulsa and Central Florida.

9) Imitate AutoZone Park and have too many concessions and staff people at games instead of too few.

10) After you do this, invite Memphians to come to the "New and Improved Liberty Bowl Game" and see the results for themselves and decide whether they really need a new stadium in the same location as the old one. Give everyone a free hot dog and a Coke to make them feel good. It worked for Boss Crump.

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