Agricenter ShowPlace Arena ready for modern-day makeover

Renovations will get underway by the end of the year on three projects at the Agricenter ShowPlace Arena, marking the first improvements to the facility since it was built in the 1980s.

“Our showplace arena is 27 years old and it’s had no capital improvements to it since it was built,” said John Charles Wilson, Agricenter president emeritus. “Over the years, we have been losing customers because off our aging facility, so we decided to either close it down or make some improvements to it.”

For years during the 2000s, the venue had been used for paintball events and had sustained quite a bit of damage. Eight years ago, Wilson began meeting with Shelby County commissioners and was able to secure $3 million for long-range plans. Agricenter worked with Populus, which designs arenas around the world, in coming up with a plan to bring it back to modern-day standards.

“Over the past three years, we were able to get an additional $3 million from the State of Tennessee, so now we’re ready to start the first phases of $17 million in improvements to the facility,” said Wilson.

The approximate cost of the Phase I is $6 million. Work on the warm-up arena is expected to take six months while the main arena will take 18 months.

Features of the warm-up arena will include a completely new exterior skin, along with new office space, meeting rooms, restrooms and showers and a patio and entryway gate. Fleming Architects created the designs, and F & F Construction is the general contractor.

Work on the ShowPlace Main Arena includes bringing the whole building up to code including ADA compliance, seating, new and larger concession areas, and restroom improvements.

“We’re trying to turn this into a multi-use arena, using it for equestrian events, cattle shows, cheerleading events and eventually graduations,” said Wilson. “We have a dirt floor now, and we will have the ability to put a flooring over the top of the dirt. It’s just like walking on a tile floor.”

Plans for the ShowPlace Main Arena were drawn up by Evans Taylor Foster Childress Architects, and construction will be done by Jaycon Development Corporation pending Shelby County Commission approval.

In a separate third project, new steps will also go in leading from the parking area to the arena.

“It’s something that’s been desperately needed ever since we’ve been operating it,” said Wilson, who is excited about the facility’s future. “Shows that we’ve had in this past, like the Paso Fino [Horse Association] show, are looking at us again. I think with the service we’ve given to people in the past, they are willing to look back to us again. And with a new fresh look to the facility I think we’re really going to be on the move.”

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Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.