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Mayor: Knoxville needs new arena, renovated auditorium

Knoxville Coliseum

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero is recommending the city build a new arena and renovate an existing auditorium as part of what could become a $200-million project.

Knoxville Civic Auditorium-Coliseum is 55 years old and showing its age, to the point where the city brought in CSL to determine alternatives to handle desired growth. The CSL recommendation: Tear down the 4,500-seat Coliseum, build a new and larger arena that can accommodate major touring acts, and renovate the smaller auditorium. This route would keep the complex in the same place — with a major hotel attached — while also keeping activity in downtown Knoxville. From Knoxville News-Sentinel:

In the consultant’s version of the plan, the city would renovate the auditorium, leave the existing parking garage and then build the new arena between those two structures, on the corner of Howard Baker Jr. Boulevard and Honor Our Troops Drive. A glass connector could include a restaurant or meeting rooms.

Council members, who were at a budget retreat Friday at the Knoxville Convention Center, seemed largely to agree with the mayor’s plan.

Councilman George Wallace encouraged Rogero to consider cooperation with Knox County government and to explore private partnerships.

“We announce a streetscape project and immediately people start developing real estate,” Wallace said. “I think the exact same thing will happen with hotel and other development, and it will bring the city to the (new arena) site.”

CSL’s estimate for the entire project: between $141 million and $205 million, depending on the final design. Rogero is telling taxpayers to expect the final cost of the project to be on the higher side — $200 million. But that doesn’t seem to be causing much concern among locals and elected officials: she says public meetings on the subject hasn’t yielded much in the way of opposition, with the overwhelming consensus being that the new arena complex would work best at the site of the current Knoxville Civic Auditorium-Coliseum.

The Coliseum is currently home to the Knoxville Ice Bears (SPHL).

Image of Knoxville Coliseum courtesy Knoxville Civic Auditorium-Coliseum.

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