Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rehab or raze: Feasibility study to determine Civic Coliseum's future

Knoxville leaders are looking into whether to renovate or raze the city's antiquated Civic Auditorium and Coliseum.

The downtown performance arena is home to a number of sports teams, including one of its main tenants, the Knoxville Ice Bears professional ice hockey team.

The arena has also featured thousands of world-class acts since it opened in 1961. During the past five decades, it's hosted circuses, theatrical productions, musicals, comedians, and major concerts, including the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder.

"We get people from all over to come to these shows," said Greg Mackay, director of public assembly facilities for the City of Knoxville. "It's the one place people are drawn to."

Although the 50-year-old facility has a lot of history, Mackay says it also has some major problems.

When it was designed in the 1950s, for example, musical performers stacked their speakers on the floor. Now they hang them from the roof trusses, which aren't strong enough to hold them.

Mackay added that other issues stopped the city from investing in a new wooden sports floor that would allow the coliseum to host volleyball and basketball competitions."We're having trouble because we don't know where to store it [the sports floor]," he said. "We can't store it downstairs because we have a leaky basement and the humidity would warp the wood."

Mackay also said that the concessions and bathrooms are in dire need of updates. And, officials would like to improve the acoustics and install LED lights in the auditorium. The outdoor plaza is also deteriorating with large cracks in the pavement.

If the city is willing to spend the money, Mackay says most of the current problems can be fixed. But before anyone sinks more cash into the old building, the city wants a professional to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the investment is worth it.

"We're going to get some outside experts to look at the condition of the building and tell us should we do a minor renovation, should we do a large renovation, or maybe it's time to build a new one," said Mackay. "Before we start making a piecemeal fix, we want to look at the big picture and decide what we're going to do."

Check out the full story right here.

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