WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.– Winston-Salem’s City Council held a special budget meeting Monday to continue discussions about the potential sale of the Lawrence Joel Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and Bowman Gray Stadium, which operate at a loss every year.
Veterans and at least one family member of Lawrence Joel are speaking out against the idea.
Cynthia Joel, niece of Lawrence Joel whose name the coliseum bares, says she worries what kind of message selling the property would send to veterans.
“20 years later we come back and undo what we did? I think it would be a dishonorable thing to do for the veterans…not only for uncle it would humiliate my family and trivialize his efforts and deeds,” Joel said.
Triad Vietnam Veteran’s Association member Walt Emery agreed saying, “It’s sad. It’s really sad. I understand to the city it is an albatross, but it is also a memorial.”
Since the coliseum opened in 1989, it’s been Forsyth County’s memorial for all veterans who died in battle.
The building itself is named after Joel, a Winston-Salem native who received the medal of honor for saving 13 lives while injured himself during the Vietnam War.
Council has vowed to take a detailed look at both properties including financial standings, improvements and outstanding leases.
Council is considering several options, including selling one or both facilities.
Wake Forest has said it is interested and plans to keep the LJVM name prominent and keep the memorials standing.
Winston-Salem State has expressed an interest in Bowman Gray and said it would honor long-standing leases for racing.
The coliseum loses about $720,000 a year despite holding more than 110 events a year. The coliseum also needs about $10 million in repairs, updates and basic maintenance, city figures showed.
Bowman Gray loses about $20,000 a year. Its only events are Winston-Salem State University football and racing through Winston-Salem Speedway, Incorporated.
City Council hopes to make a final decision in the near future, as it would like to make changes before deciding on the upcoming budget.