Friday, October 31, 2014 · 8:26 p.m.

Bidding to (sort of) name the Tivoli and Memorial

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This Tuesday, the Memorial and Tivoli advisory board of directors and the city of Chattanooga Department of Education, Arts and Culture will hold a public meeting to discuss the past and, more importantly, the future of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium.

And though the topic of conversation will be the Memorial, some brainstorming is needed about the Tivoli as well. The Tivoli and Memorial are great facilities, but they also run great big deficits—to the tune of $1 million per year—which the city is trying to figure out how to reverse. 

Many in the community have long advocated allowing those who attend shows at these facilities to purchase alcohol and bring it to their seats. During a recent meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board, Chris Anderson, who is running for the District 7 City Council seat currently held by Manny Rico, proposed that the Memorial Auditorium could also be sold or leased. If it wasn’t sold or leased, he added, it could at least be managed correctly. He aptly pointed out the fact that the concession stand doesn’t take credit cards, and an ATM machine at the auditorium was recently out of order for several months.

“When I hear that we lost $680,000 in revenue last year at the Memorial Auditorium and the concession stand only takes cash and there's no ATM ... I think that's a really quick fix," he told the paper.

So, if you’re keeping score at home, the city is looking for ways to make money with a couple of its facilities. It has a machine in one of those facilities that is literally designed to make money, but it remained out of order for months. Brilliant.  

Missy Crutchfield, Department of Education, Arts and Culture administrator, is opposed to selling or leasing the Tivoli or the Memorial, but her department is currently taking bids on the naming rights to the two facilities. According to Mark Stone, EAC civic facilities director, the naming right gives the winning bidder the right to name "the performing venues, spaces within the venues and fixtures within the venues.” 

Well, sort of. 

The naming rights don’t allow the winning bidder to rename the facilities as much as it allows the winning bidder’s name to be added to the facility names.

"As both venues have long and storied histories in Chattanooga, the integrity of the names must remain intact,” Stone said.

So, for example, there couldn’t be a Toyota Theatre, but rather a Toyota Tivoli Theatre. There couldn’t be an Apple Auditorium, but rather an Apple Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium.

Sure, it’s sort of awkward, but it’s not the worst idea in the world. If a long, awkward name will help the venues out of their long, awkward financial funk, then so be it. 

And it doesn’t have to be a big national company like Apple or Toyota that swoops in and saves the day. Perhaps there could be a local bidder.

Chattem?

Unum? 

Rick Davis? 

I mean, the Rick Davis Gold and Diamonds Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium has a nice ring to it, does it not?  

Speaking of Rick Davis and nice rings ...
I’ll admit it. I’ve always been a little fascinated by Rick Davis. 

He advertises anywhere and everywhere, and his ability to instantaneously discern the value of the handfuls of jewelry that folks bring to his store makes me wonder if he could also help determine the value of other things brought before him as, say, a member of the City Council. (Yes, I know the idea is a little far-fetched, but you have to admit that it would at least be entertaining.)

You can imagine my dismay, then, when headlines broke about a lawsuit accusing Davis of buying some jewelry—including paying $50 for a ring valued at more than $20,000—that had been stolen from a Lookout Mountain woman.

The lawsuit, filed by Lookout Mountain resident Louisa C. Hurst, claims that, for years, Davis bought stolen items from Jamie Graham, who admitted that she, along with her husband, Keith, burglarized Lookout Mountain homes, including Hurst’s. 

Graham told police that when she brought Hurst’s $20,000 platinum and diamond ring to Davis, he told her it was a fake and gave her a mere $50 for it. Davis told the Times Free Press that the allegations are from “a known thief” and are “blown out of proportion.” His attorney calls the allegations “meritless.”  

The suit also claims that Davis has failed to keep purchases separate and unsold for the required 20 days and that he violated Tennessee law by failing to keep required records of his purchases. According to court documents, Davis “has informed authorities that he either has lawful ownership and refuses to return the jewelry or that he is no longer in possession of such jewelry.” Chattanooga Police Department Officer Rebecca Shelton cited Davis a $250 fine for failure to maintain records and items, and Davis paid the fine. 

One would think, given the amount of traffic that Davis gets in his Brainerd Road store, that he has unwittingly purchased a decent amount of stolen merchandise over the years. And, sure, if the angry comments I’ve read online are the least bit true, maybe he doesn’t pay quite as much for gold as the next guy. But that doesn’t automatically mean that he’s a crook, and plenty of other people seem quite happy with him.

If he knowingly ripped off a thief, thinking she wouldn’t complain because, you know, she’s a thief—and intentionally failed to keep a record of the transaction—then he deserves to get sued—or worse. If he didn’t do those things, then he needs to be left alone. And he probably needs to start keeping better records.

We’ll see how things shake out. Hurst is seeking an injunction that would prevent Davis from selling the jewelry he bought from Graham—if, you know, he still has it and all—and Davis’ attorney is planning to vigorously fight the charges.

Perhaps Davis will address this incident during an upcoming broadcast of "Talking Gold." 

Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) local news, culture, music and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or reach him at billcolrus@gmail.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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