$75 million Graceland Expansion Moves Forward
After months of backroom negotiation, and public arguments through the press, Elvis Presley Enterprises, the City of Memphis and Memphis City Council reached a compromise regarding future expansion.
EPE, the owners of Graceland and the surrounding campus, removed problematic elements of its proposed expansion and is moving forward with a pared down, albeit $75 million, addition to Graceland.
The expansion could include retail, 150 more rooms at the Guest House at Graceland, cabins, an airplane hangar, an RV park and expanded exhibit space. It does not include any more square feet of sound stages or any multi-use buildings that could house a concert or live music show, according to the resolution approved by Memphis City Council.
James McLaren, EPE's attorney, said the expansion would create about 220 new jobs.
The expansion has been delayed for months at council while EPE and city officials and city councilors were at loggerheads over whether an expansion of soundstages at Graceland would violate the Arena Use agreement the city has with the Memphis Grizzlies. That agreement forbids use of public funds for another arena of 5,000 or more seats.
The resolution the council was set to vote on doesn't allow public funds to be used for "an arena, or live concert venue..." That vote has been delayed since mid-March.
City Council Attorney Allan Wade said the resolution, which doubles as an agreement, doesn't impact the existing Graceland Soundstage. That sound stage hosts concerts as part of a deal with Live Nation Entertainment.
Wade said that if EPE was found to have violated its agreement with the city and used public funds for construction of any live entertainment venue, they would be required to pay the public bonds issued to pay for the expansion. He called that clawback provision a "tremendous incentive to stay on the straight and narrow."
The council vote is a mechanical one — it amended the Graceland Tourism Development Zone Master Plan. That allows the city administration to ask the Tennessee State Building Commission to approve the changes to the Graceland TDZ, and then later to approve the issuing of public bonds for the expansion. Those bonds would be paid for with sales tax revenue from the site as well as a special 5% surcharge.
If that public funding clears all the necessary hurdles, it would join the tens of millions of public funding dollars that Graceland has received in the past decade. EPE is also seeking an amendment to the existing Tax Increment Financing district for the expansion. That request is on a different legislative track and could before the City Council and Shelby County Commission in the coming months.