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The Future of the Fairgrounds

As demolition begins at Libertyland, the city considers tearing down other buildings at the fairgrounds.

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With the exception of the occasional security guard, the fairgrounds and Libertyland haven't seen much activity in the past few years. The Youth Building, home to the Memphis Roller Derby and the Big One Flea Market, has been the exception.

But after demolition of the southeast side of Libertyland began last week, some residents wonder if the rest of the fairgrounds aren't far behind.

SMG Management, the company hired by the city to manage fairgrounds properties, recently told the roller derby it couldn't renew its contract on the building after the new year.

"About two or three weeks ago, when we were getting ready to renew another six-month contract with SMG, they told us the city had asked them not to take any more contracts beyond December 31st," said Don Mynatt, one of the organization's board members.

The derby has been paying more than $30,000 a year to rent the Youth Building. They use the space for bi-weekly practice sessions and monthly bouts.

Although calls to SMG were not returned by press time, Tonya Meeks, a spokesperson for Mayor A C Wharton's office, confirmed that the city is still undecided on the fate of the fairgrounds buildings.

"They may not be demolished, but we don't not know yet," Meeks said. "[The city] is pulling this together as quickly as they can, but they're not trying to make any flash-in-the-pan decisions. They're looking at the whole project and all the components involved."

City officials have been trying to decide what to do with the fairgrounds property for several years. The Memphis City Council hasn't approved any final plans for the future of the site, but last month, Lowery held a groundbreaking for demolition of unused structures at the fairgrounds.

The Big One Flea Market, which holds monthly shopping events in the Youth Building, is under a lease until 2012. At this time, Meeks says the city hasn't determined what will happen with that lease.

Meanwhile, Memphis Roller Derby is seeking a new home. Though SMG wouldn't renew a six-month contract, Mynatt said the management group was willing to take down the derby's dates for events happening next season.

"We have a bout scheduled for January 9th. It's two home teams playing each other, so theoretically we could scrap that if we had to," Mynatt said. "But in February, we already have a St. Louis travel team booked to come down and play us."

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