On April 26, Graceland.com posted a surprisingly brief news item.
“Graceland is pleased that an agreement has been reached for Elvis’ two airplanes, the Lisa Marie and Hound Dog II to remain at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis permanently. The planes have been available for tours in the Graceland visitors’ center since 1984.”
Pretty short on detail, and there has been no elaboration since. Lisa Marie had a little Twitter message the same day.
I guess the plan is to move forward with no mention of the battle that has been going on since last July between Elvis Presley Enterprises and OKC Partnership, the company that actually owns the planes. In case you don’t know the history here, Graceland has displayed the planes under an agreement that gives OKC an a specific percentage of the ticket revenue.
Things seem to have worked fine for all the years that Graceland charged separate prices for each attraction. Then, package tickets came into the picture, but you could still buy the individual tickets. Well, those days are over. You must now choose between two package plans, or simply see the mansion and nothing else..
These are two options on the cheaper package. The only difference is that the top one includes the airplanes for an extra $5.00. The more expensive Elvis VIP Entourage package works the same way. When this set-up started, it effectively established a considerably lower ticket income for the planes exhibit, and thus, a big drop in revenue for OKC. Which, of course, they weren’t happy about. So, OKC called EPE’s bluff by threatening to remove their planes.
From here on it was like a boxing slug fest, with each side making moves to get the advantage.
First EPE countered their bluff by saying okay, 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?
Soon, OKC announced a deal with Julian’s, the Beverly Hills, California, auction house to offer both planes, and they were expected to fetch between $10 million and $15 million.
Uh, oh. The auction closed on February 2, and nobody bid on the planes. Same results when they tried to sell them on an aviation website and eBay.
Earlier this month (April 2015), Shelby County’s land use board approved a proposal by OKC Partnership to move the planes to a 5.3-acre lot at 3850 Elvis Presley Blvd, not far from Graceland. The plan was approved Tuesday, April 21 by the Memphis City Council.
The approved plan called for the planes to be installed as an outdoor display and museum for tourists to visit. And the news release said it would be up and running in time for Elvis Week 2015.
To show you how feasible this plan could have been, look at the location of the lot in question.
The lot is across the street from the Days Inn that is just down the street from the car museum. I stayed there on my first visit, and it’s no walk at all to Graceland.
This aerial view shows the property just to the right of the marker. Look above it and you can see the Graceland drive and the mansion behind the cluster of trees. A little higher and to the left you can see where the planes are now. So, OKC had a viable plan to move the planes, start their own attraction, and attract all the folks in town to see Graceland.
EPE had to cut a deal, or they would lose the planes. You can bet some hot and heavy negation went on, and now they own the plans.
Yes, Graceland seems to have won, but the price had to be a lot higher than they originally expected.
Look at the aerial map again. Above the planes is the U-shaped Heartbreak Hotel. Behind it is the Graceland Trailer Park and a primitive tent camping area. In an ElvisBlog article last July, I speculated that if EPE wanted to move the planes to allow room for a huge entertainment complex, they might eliminate the tent area and put them there.
One other interesting fact came to light while I researched this story. There is another possible location where EPE might move the planes. Directly behind Graceland Plaza Visitors’ Center is a sixteen-acre property that used to be the Craft Manor Apartments. It has been razed and EPE has owned it since 2007. So the planes could be moved there as part of some new development. Like Lisa cryptically said, “We own them and have fun plans 4 them.”
Or the planes might stay right where they are. Either way, the fans win.
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