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Mayor Wants Oman Arena Sold, Leased or Closed

By Emily Cassulo
By ecassulo@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn. - An iconic building in West Tennessee is in the verge of closing down for good.

Jackson city leaders are looking to close the Oman Arena, because they said it is costing them too much money.

Mayor Jerry Gist told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News he does not want something bad to happen to the arena, but the city cannot keep running it like they are now.

Donnie Blackwell has many memories at the Oman Arena. He even met his wife there.

"I saw her in PE and low and behold, years later, I actually married her," Blackwell said.

That is why he hopes the city does not have to close it.

Mayor Gist wants to propose to city council during budget hearings to close the arena, July 1 - hopefully only temporarily.

"We're hopeful that it'll remain open and we can get someone to come in and lease the facility and use it for events," Gist said.

the mayor said so far this fiscal year, the arena has cost them about $100,000. Last year, nearly $170,000.

"At one time, the arena was a wonderful facility," Gist said. "Things have changed. "

The arena is still being used for gym class at Madison Academic High School, but the mayor said that is not enough.

Oman was built in the 1960s as a high school gym. Concerts and other events were an afterthought.

Still, those at Madison Academic High School do not want the arena to close. It would be a big loss for their students.

"The kids like having the opportunity to play here because it sort've gives them a feel of playing in a college arena, and the openness that most high school gyms don't give you or have," said Craig Murley, the athletic director for Madison Academic High School.

Murley said if the city does close the arena, they will have to use another school in the system, or consider using the facilities at the University of Memphis-Lambuth campus.