This is an article in the April 8 issue of the Wall Street Journal. The title is wrong. It should say, “EPE Pressures Memphis to Dig Deep to Keep Graceland.”
For two years EPE has been trying to get tax breaks from the city of Memphis to help pay for another $100 million in expansions. It worked four years ago when the city gave EPE $79 million in tax incentives. The timing would suggest this helped the Guest House and/or Elvis Presley’s Memphis become realities.
But it’s tougher to get the money this time. Part of the expansion EPE is doing is a 6,200 seat performance arena, and there is a dispute because of a deal the city has with the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team and the FedEx Forum where they play.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ have a strange lease agreement with the FedEx Forum that says city funding can’t be used for a new venue that seats more than 5,000 people and would compete with the Forum. Why would a basketball team care about that? FedEx is the one benefiting from this provision.
Last October, EPE filed a suit in U.S. District Court that alleged a delay in the Land Use Control Board’s consideration of the Graceland expansion plan was meant to punish EPE. Apparently that suit hasn’t been enough, so Joel Weinshanker, EPE managing partner, has thrown out the most amazing negotiating chit.
What a ballsy move. He is threatening to disassemble the Graceland mansion and rebuild it in Dubai or somewhere. He’s got to know that wouldn’t work. The Guest House and Elvis Presley’s Memphis would be headed toward closure without Graceland mansion as the draw.
However, I am impressed by the move. It got lots of press in Memphis and actually might speed a resolution.
But what’s this about a 6,200 seat arena?
This picture came from memphisdailynews.com. It is the site plan EPE submitted with their application for the tax breaks. Down at the bottom center you will recognize Elvis Presley’s Memphis. The biggest building in it is the Elvis the Entertainer Career Museum. But compare that to the size of the three buildings in yellow on the left.
According to news reports, they are the 6,200-seat concert arena, an 80,000-square-foot exhibition center, and a manufacturing factory that would make tourist souvenirs, Americana crafts and other items. The factory is touted as potentially employing 1,000 people. That could be a sweetener EPE included to help get city approval.
It certainly should cause some of the companies with licenses from EPE to start worrying whether they will be renewed once Graceland gets into the souvenir making business.
Take another look at the site plan above. The oval around the top building in yellow shows my guess which one is the concert arena. I tried to blow up the picture to read the text on the buildings, but I couldn’t make them out. However, you will notice a covered entrance from the parking lot, which is a pretty good clue. There will certainly be a big announcement about the concert arena coming soon, so we’ll know where it is and what it looks like.
Similar information about the 80,000-square-foot exhibition center should come out even sooner — possibly this weekend. The reason is that in five weeks a big event will be held there.
The schedule for the Hallmark Channel’s June Wedding Celebration was released earlier this week. There are big events planned for the Graceland Soundstage, the Chapel in the Woods, and in the open area of Elvis Presley’s Memphis. But there are also a number of events scheduled in something called the Hallmark Channel Lounge… located in the Graceland Exhibition Center.
These include “All Day Drop-In Activities” from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on both days. There are also two autograph sessions each day, and a “Lucky in Love” game show hosted by D J Argo of SiriusXM Elvis Radio on Saturday. On Sunday, there is an “Early Riser Bagel and Bingo party.
This is a pretty good way to open a brand new facility. It’s coming soon, so we can expect plenty of press releases announcing the new Graceland Exhibition Center.
I first saw mention of it back in late February when the schedule for Elvis Week 2019 was announced.
The all-new TCB Pass for $28.75 is a very good deal, and it includes unlimited access to the Music Pavilion… located in the Graceland Exhibition Center. No more “Entertainment Tent” this year. Now you get inside air-conditioned comfort with food and beverage stations.
This early mention of the Graceland Exhibition Center caught my eye. I Googled it hoping to see a picture of what it looked like. Nothing came up. I tried on Graceland.com/news, and there was nothing there either.
I checked again today, and there are still no pictures of the Graceland Exhibition Center. That is about to change.
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