If Elvis’ Planes Leave Graceland, What Replaces Them?

Entrance to Graceland Planes

I assume every Elvis fan has heard by now about EPE telling OKC, the company that actually owns the Lisa Marie and the Hound Dog 2, to make arrangements to remove them from the property by April 26, 2015. This has sparked such a furor on the internet, and I’ve followed it all with interest. Everybody has a theory. The most common being that it’s just two big companies fighting over money. Let’s look at some facts you probably haven’t seen on the other Elvis websites.

 

Graceland Platinum Ticket Package

This is least expensive of three Graceland Ticket Packages. Note that the tour of Elvis’ two airplanes will be dropped from this package as of August 9, just before Elvis Week kicks in this year. Seems like curious timing doesn’t it? After that, if you want to see the planes on your visit to Graceland, the Tour # 2 option includes them for an additional $5.

When the planes were available on all three packages, there was no definitive way to judge how much revenue could be credited to the planes. Under this new pricing arrangement, EPE has established the value of the planes as $5 per ticket sold. Pretty good deal, huh. Yes, if you are a ticket buyer. But not for OKC that owns the planes and gets a percentage of the ticket revenue under the licensing agreement for Graceland to exhibit them.

 Lisa Marie Plane Entrance

 

In an ElvisBlog article last year, we looked at the Graceland tour prices back in 1993 when each attraction could be ticketed separately. Inflation plus the additional upward creep of all Graceland ticket prices would increase these numbers to 2014 levels.

So, we have an approximate price to compare to the new $5.00, and see the plane owners will face a revenue loss of approximately 60%. This adds support to one of the theories expressed on website comments – EPE dropped the bomb on OKC about their take being cut, OKC called their bluff by threatening to remove their planes, and EPE countered their bluff by saying: OK, get the planes out of here. Might have been a smart move. Realistically, where could OKC set up the planes and attract as many customers as they get at Graceland?

 Long View Lisa Marie

EPE’s letter to OKC also stated that all costs of removing the planes would be at the planes’ owners’ expense. Look at the size of the Lisa Marie. This is a big four-engine jet. To move it to a new location, portions of the wings would have to be removed so it could travel down the highway (as it did to get it to Graceland in 1984).

Lisa Marie Going Down the Highway.

To move it to another city, a new engine would have to be purchased so it would fly. Three engines are in storage, the other was donated to a trade school years ago. So, OKC would face some huge moving expenses in addition to questionable ticket revenue at any location other than Graceland.

So, basically, it looks like EPE’s bluff is going to work. However, some commenters go farther and argue that EPE is trying to force OKC to sell the planes to them. Gee, do you think EPE would actually use strong-armed tactics to get control of something it wanted?

 

Graceland Guesthouse

This picture is for the start of my theory that much more is going on here. It is the recently announced $70 million Guesthouse at Graceland, a 450-room luxury hotel to be built just north of Graceland on the same side of the street. It will have meeting rooms and other amenities for conventions.

 Graceland Guesthouse Public Hearing

There was a public hearing where the Guesthouse was introduced to the Memphis movers and shakers. On the screen is an aerial view drawing of the twenty-five acre project. Here is a look of the area as it now exists.

Yellow lines around Hotel, Red Lines Around ...

The guesthouse project will be inside the yellow lines. It replaces an old apartment complex and a used car dealership. Happily, very little of the tree cover will be removed.

Now look across the street at the area inside the red lines. In the top right we can see the Lisa Marie. To the left of that is the L-shaped Graceland Crossing building.

Graceland Crossing

This is an old, not very appealing strip center with three stores (Harley Davidson, Everything Elvis, and Souvenirs of Elvis) and two exhibits (Private Presley and ’68 Special). Suppose EPE wanted it gone. It would be easy to move the gift shops to spaces in the new Guesthouse hotel. The two exhibits could easily be rotated into the new Graceland Archives Exhibit (see the item above the box in the Platinum Ticket Package above).

Heartbreak Hotel Sign

The U-shaped building below Graceland Crossing in the photo is Heartbreak Hotel. It is also quite old and contains only 128 rooms. Several websites report they have information that EPE plans to tear down Heartbreak Hotel.

Heartbreak Hotel Lobby

Heartbreak Hotel Lobby

So… what if the planes, Graceland Crossing, and Heartbreak Hotel were all gone. It’s not such a crazy idea. Wouldn’t EPE want something equally special just across the street from their fancy new hotel?

As far back as 2006, then EPE owner Robert Sillerman proposed an entertainment complex, restaurants, shops, an outdoor amphitheater and a spa. Maybe plans for this idea are still on the boards.

 Map of Graceland

Here’s another look at all the space that could be available for such an entertainment complex. But, isn’t there some way to do it without Elvis’ airplanes going away? Well, look behind Heartbreak Hotel on the map. See the arrow pointing to the Graceland RV Park and Campground?

Graceland RV Park and Campground

The RV Park and Campground sit on nineteen acres. Suppose they took five acres away and put the plane exhibit there? When you think about it, how much revenue can they be getting from space rentals for tent camping? Not anything close to what the planes would generate. And moving them to a new location on site would be a piece of cake. Just pull them with a tractor.

Map of Graceland RV Park and Cabins

Map of Graceland RV Park and Cabins

Of course, the fans would have to walk a bit farther to see the Lisa Marie and the Hound Dog 2. I wouldn’t mind. How about you?

So, that’s my theory. EPE gets ownership of the planes, Graceland Crossing and Heartbreak Hotel get torn down, and the planes are moved to a portion of the RV Park and Campground. Then a huge entertainment/dining complex is built across from the luxury hotel.

If you have a different theory, put it in Comments.

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We’ll see what happens.

 

© 2014 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

15 responses to “If Elvis’ Planes Leave Graceland, What Replaces Them?

  1. Pingback: First Look – -The Rooms at the Guest House at Graceland | ElvisBlog

  2. A Fan from age 16 now 57 The King will live forever.

  3. Pingback: EPE versus OKC — The Battle over Elvis’ Planes | ElvisBlog

  4. It’s business folks. I’m quite certain that EPE, Priscilla and Lisa do not want these planes to go anywhere. Priscilla and Lisa have given much of the last several decades to make sure that Elvis fans are able to pay respects and enjoy what used to be his very private domain. This nonsense some have said about them not caring about anything but money is just that, pure nonsense. It takes a lot of funding and income to open those gates everyday and to keep the exhibits fresh so I thank both of them for allowing us to see his home, personnel belongings and gravesite first hand. I don’t know how much they make from Graceland but if they become the wealtest people on earth I’m OK with that. I’m certain they would trade it all back in a heartbeat to spend one more day with him. Thanks to EPE , Priscilla and Lisa people will enjoy his legacy for decades to come. For that I simply say thank you.

  5. As an Elvis fan since the age of 12 years (I’m now 50) my wife and I have only recently been in a position to plan a holiday to Memphis this coming June, purposely to see my idols home and all his personal possessions. I was very disappointed to see that many items were going to be removed from Graceland and put on display at the London O2 arena from Dec 2014 to Aug 2015, iconic jumpsuits, cars etc. I’m now even more upset and annoyed that I will now not also see Elvis’ aeroplanes ! I’m beginning to ask myself, will there be anything left for me to see on my visit to Graceland? To me it seems as if Elvis’ legacy is being turned into a financial cash cow to feed the greedy, leaving true fans who wish to keep alive the spirit of Elvis and the things that he surrounded himself with left there for us all to remember and recall our memories of him. Elvis’ and all the things that he owned needs to remain at Graceland, his home and where his fans new and old can visit and appreciate !

    • Hi Adrian: A lot of fans share your opinion. But, it may not be a bad as you fear. The memorabilia at the London 02 exhibit will all be coming back to Graceland in August. And the announced sale of the airplanes is just a ploy by the planes’ owner to force EPE to pony up more money to keep them at Graceland. Sometime before the expiration of the current lease contract in April, a new deal will be signed. Those planes are not leaving Graceland.

      Phil Arnold, Original ElvisBlogmeister

      • Thank you Phil, your reply is very much appreciated. I’m so looking forward to visiting Graceland in June, it’s been a boyhood dream and the thought of it being spoilt by not being able to see the things I’ve only seen on film or pictures for many years was upsetting. I hope you are right and the planes remain where they belong at Graceland and I get to see them. I have read your article on the future plans for exhibits and hotels etc, I personally think that Graceland needs to be kept fresh and draw in new visitors (new Elvis fans) but it also retains its history. I sincerely hope that Graceland doesn’t become a ‘Disney like’ money making attraction and remembers Elvis Presley the man….The King of Rock and Roll…

      • Hi Phil, it was great to hear this week that at least Elvis’ planes will remain close to Graceland for everyone to see! As per my previous post, my wife and I are counting down the days to our first visit to Graceland in June and I’m so pleased that I may still get the chance to view the planes. I have read that the planes are to be relocated in time for Elvis week in August, do you know if they intend leaving the planes open and where they are for viewing until they are moved ? I’m concerned that the owners were told to have them moved by or shortly after end of April, will they be forced to close them down until moved? will I be able to view them in June when I visit ? Kind Regards, Adrian

        • Hi Adrian: I am sorry I did not reply to your comment earlier. But the good news is that your fears have been dispelled with the news last week. I assume that by now you have read my ElvisBlog post last Sunday about the latest developments with the planes. You will certainly be able to see them in June when you visit Graceland.

          Phil Arnold, Original ElvisBlogmeister.

  6. Nice well thought out article, thank you for taking your time to wright.
    MDW

  7. It has always ticked me off that the mansion tour is an audio recording. At $37 each person are you seriously going to tell me they can’t afford to hire a knowledgeable guide for the mansion tour? A little off topic, sorry.

  8. On re-reading your article again, I do want to add this caveat.
    I wouldn’t want to see Elvis’ planes any further away from his beautiful home Graceland. If they were hidden at the back of any developments on Elvis Boulevard, then it would devaulue them. Because this planned hotel is going to be six stories tall, it is going to dominate the area. And if they then have a tall structure of shops, restaurants, entertainent venue, etc, it changes the whole area from a residential suburb, to become more built-up. I love to walk around these streets, and it needs more garden/parkland along Elvis Boulevard, to run along in front of the Graceland Crossing and Graceland Plaza across the street from Elvis’ home. Any buildings need to be set further back, so that they don’t ruin the views.

  9. Nice job on this article, Phil. I enjoyed reading it.

    Respectfully, I have to disagree with Elizabeth, though. It is certainly not reneging on a contract to begin re-negotiations prior to its conclusion – particularly since these things can take awhile. The stakes are big, for both sides. If anything, it is good business sense to start the process early. Otherwise, there’d potentially be a gap between the end of one contract and the beginning of the next.

  10. I completely agree with you. These comments are so right.
    But that contract was due to expire next April 26th 2015. Elvis honoured his contracts, so the company bearing his name, should do the same. Next year was the time to re-negotiate. I so hope that Mr. Coker can call their bluff. Such strong-arm tactics are horrible. Not the right way to do business at all. It would make me very wary of signing any contracts with people who renege. It means their word and their signatures, are worthless.

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