Corpus Christi May Save Roof of 1954 Coliseum
By Tricia McCarter-Joseph | Online Only | Jan. 21, 2010
A 56-year-old coliseum in Corpus Christ, Tex., is doomed—but there's a chance that its roof may remain.
The city council voted unanimously on Jan. 12 to demolish the coliseum after developers withdrew plans to renovate it as a swim center and hotel. However, a local architect hopes to save the roof, provided he can convince city council that his plan is cheaper than demolition.
Architect George Clower presented his proposal to the city council in November. He wants to remove the walls and seating of the building and renovate its arched roof "as a shade pavilion in a festival park, preserving the most unique portion of the building and the park that has been an icon on the Corpus Christi bayfront," he said in an e-mail. Clower witnessed the building's construction and later worked for the architect who designed the coliseum, Richard S. Colley. Clower is hopeful that his idea will be seriously considered. "Citizen support has been a groundswell, and the council is appearing more positive, although they have not yet slowed the process of demolition."
Brent Chesney, city council member, says that the council initially declined to consider Clower's proposal, but have invited him to provide cost estimates for his plan. "I believe the local architect's plan has great merit," Chesney said in an e-mail.
Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan performed at Memorial Coliseum. Abandoned since 2004, the building needs roof repairs and new lights.
The year the coliseum closed, Preservation Texas, Inc., placed the structure on its list of the state's most endangered historic places. "I believe [the coliseum's impending demolition] is due to a lack of appreciation for buildings of that time period," says Krista Gebbia, executive director of the Austin-based nonprofit.
Chesney says that one of the reasons the council voted for demolition was that the developer, the National Swimming Center Corporation, couldn't specify how long it would take to secure a hotel for its project.
The city council gave the developer until last Tuesday to bridge a $5 million funding gap needed to complete the project. However, in a memo from the corporation's lawyer to the city manager, securing a hotel chain to commit to the project was difficult due to the economic downturn.
"In a perfect world [the National Swimming Center Corporation] would ask for more time for the economy to improve, but recognize the City has other considerations affecting the timetable," the memo states.
The city council, which has no plans for the coliseum site, is accepting bids for demolition and partial demolition until Mar. 29.
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