Johnson City, Tn. – We’ve all seen the various media reports now. Johnson City is FINALLY looking to invest in major renovations for the venerable Freedom Hall Civic Center. The venue has seen some fantastic shows over the years, Elvis, Elton John, Jerry Lee Lewis, AC/DC, and even the 16 time world heavyweight champion Ric Flair has graced the halls of the once proud venue. But years of neglect have taken a toll on the place. Cracked walls, plumbing, HVAC, and old, worn out seats are just some of the issues facing the building opened in the 1970’s. Since that initial night, very little has been done to update Freedom Hall. This past week, the city has made clear its’ goal of allocating 12 million dollars to give it a facelift. Bucs fans should be ecstatic this is happening. Now I’m the first to say even with the renovations, Freedom Hall is a bandage for a much larger issue (a new arena), but we’ll get to that another day. What is it you would like to see that would make Freedom Hall better, not just for basketball and entertainment, but for fans and patrons of the venue? For me it all starts with tickets, traffic, and toilet paper. The bathrooms there are terrible. Anytime I’ve been in the facility with more than 3000 people, there’s standing water in the men’s bathrooms. Traffic and tickets are always a nightmare. Part of traffic is people simply can’t drive, but a huge part is parking over there really isn’t all that great. Getting into the place is also inconvenient. There never seems to be enough people working the doors to get people in, so you have to get in obscenely early to ensure you don’t miss the start of anything. Next comes the seats. The seats have NEVER been replaced in Freedom Hall. Now for those of you who remember Willie Nelson, Lynard Skynard, and some of the shows of the 70’s and 80’s, think long and hard about what’s been on those seats over the years.
It’s long overdue, and with the right leadership running Freedom Hall, it could attract better entertainment that would provide a nice boost in the local and regional economy. But in the process, let’s hope the city is in a silent, pre planning phase for a long term solution that involves a new, downtown arena and convention center that can attract the truly big names of the music and entertainment industry.