Signs of 2019 shutdown for Coliseum

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 8/23/2018, 6 a.m.
The 47-year-old Richmond Coliseum could go dark next year even in the face of continuing uncertainty about a private group’s ...
Richmond Coliseum

The 47-year-old Richmond Coliseum could go dark next year even in the face of continuing uncertainty about a private group’s proposal to tear it down and replace it with a new $220 million arena.

The Free Press has learned that the Coliseum’s management company, SMG/Johnson, is telling promoters that it cannot confirm any dates for 2019 and beyond.

The Harlem Globetrotters have booked the arena for two shows on Saturday, Dec. 29, and their entertaining games could be the last event staged at the Coliseum until the future of the aging venue is settled.

Dolly Vogt, Coliseum manager, did not respond to a Free Press request for comment.

However, a promoter who inquired about booking several dates for concerts next year showed the Free Press an email he received from a Coliseum staff member telling him the venue would not confirm any dates after December.

Online ticket sellers, such as Ticketmaster, also show no events scheduled for 2019.

More evidence has come from sports operations. The Atlantic 10 Conference announced Tuesday that it will move its 2019 women’s basketball tournament from the Richmond Coliseum to Duquesne University because the Richmond Coliseum will not be available.

Earlier this summer, the Richmond Roughriders arena football team that has played for the past two years at the Coliseum, announced it was searching for an affordable venue either in the Richmond area or in another city.

The team has not yet announced a new location for its upcoming season from March through June, but the ownership has indicated there is little prospect for returning to the Coliseum.

The future of the 13,500-seat Coliseum that opened in 1971 has been in question since city officials opened negotiations with a group that wants to replace the building with a new, larger version.

The NH Foundation, led by Dominion Energy Chief Executive Officer Thomas F. “Tom” Farrell II, and its development planning arm, NH District Corp., has advanced a plan to replace the aging Coliseum with a 17,500-seat arena.

The Farrell group proposals calls for repaying the debt using taxes generated from a potential $1.2 billion in development that other entities would build on nearby city-owned land, including a new hotel, 2,500 new apartments, four new office buildings and retail operations. The Farrell group would not provide any of the investment dollars but, instead, wants the city to give it control of the land so it could manage the development.

City Hall officials confirmed this week that Mayor Levar M. Stoney has pulled back from introducing the proposal to City Council in early September. That evaporates hopes that City Council could evaluate and vote on the proposal by its December meeting. At least seven members of the council would need to support the proposal because it would involve the transfer of municipal property.

The city’s team and the NH District team have yet to reach a deal, though negotiations are continuing.

One key issue is the percentage of lower-rent apartments that would be included, insiders said. The Farrell group is proposing 10 percent, while Mayor Stoney wants a higher percentage.

Another issue involves the city’s ability to develop a new building for the Richmond Department of Social Services and allow its current site on 9th Street across from City Hall to be redeveloped for apartments and a bus transit station, insiders said.