With uncertainty surrounding the fairgrounds, Memphis Roller Derby spent the past few months considering a move to a Collierville skating rink or the Millington naval base.
Fortunately for the derby, the city announced plans last week to spare the Pipkin and Creative Arts buildings from demolition for at least two more years. Last Friday, the derby worked out a new contract with SMG Management — the company that manages the fairgrounds — to move from the Youth Building into the Pipkin Building.
The Arena Building and the Youth Building, where the derby has held bouts for the past few years, are slated for demolition sometime in April. Both of those buildings are in the footprint of what will be the 15-acre Great Lawn, a space for tailgating during football games.
The future of the Big One Flea Market, which also currently uses the Youth Building, in addition to the Pipkin and the Horticulture Building, is uncertain.
Mayor A C Wharton spokesperson Tonya Meeks said the Pipkin and Creative Arts buildings were spared to offer football fans a place to gather on game days.
"Those buildings don't require a lot of work, so it's easy to leave them there to have a place for the roller derby and to be used during the Liberty Bowl instead of putting up a tent," Meeks said.
Though the derby only has a few weeks to prepare the slightly smaller Pipkin for their next bout Saturday, April 10th, the league is happy to remain in Midtown.
"We still have room to put down two tracks, but we'll have to be careful with placement to allow fans to get around it," said Don Mynatt, head of training and coaching for the derby.
The move also allowed the derby to negotiate a cheaper rate for the Pipkin.
"That means we can have more practices, and we won't be spending all of our time fund-raising to stay afloat," Mynatt said.
The Pipkin and Creative Arts buildings may still be demolished in a few years, but they're safe for now. Meeks said the city likely will build a breezeway between the two buildings, and, eventually, it will build a new multi-purpose building on the fairgrounds site.
"At the end of the day, you want to keep something as wonderful, popular, and beloved as the roller derby inside the city. That's the creative class," Meeks said. "The mayor is trying to create an environment where Memphis is a city of choice, and the roller derby falls in the scope of that vision."