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VOL. 127 | NO. 122 | Friday, June 22, 2012

‘Unique Setting’

Bass Pro Shops gives first glimpse of retail store inside The Pyramid

By Bill Dries

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Bass Pro Shops executives and city leaders marked the beginning of Bass Pro Shops construction inside The Pyramid Thursday, June 21, with a fish fry in the iconic Downtown landmark before the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World begins to take shape.

Bass Pro Shops representatives and city of Memphis officials kicked off construction Thursday on the Bass Pro Shops store and hotel in The Pyramid. 

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

It marked the end of city demolition work, which included removing the seating bowl that had defined The Pyramid since its opening in 1991 as a sports, concert and special events arena.

The only reminder of the structure’s original life was the building’s legendary poor acoustics as Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. spoke to a group of 200 business and government leaders.

Their words echoed several times from a stage surrounded by roped off-areas labeled for what their uses would be in 2013 when the adaptive reuse makes its debut.

“Everything about this is very unusual. It’s a unique building, a unique setting on the river,” Morris said later as he gestured at the upper reaches of The Pyramid from the concrete floor. “It’s not without burden. It’s not without a lot of investment from everybody. It’s not without some risk taking. But we’re enthused about it. We’re excited about having one of the most unique retail environments you could ever hope for.”

Morris emphasized Bass Pro Shops’ partnership with Memphis-based Ducks Unlimited in conservation efforts will be highlighted at The Pyramid.

Parts of the store that include water bays to re-create a cypress swamp had blue tarps across them. A stuffed moose and a preserved bear as well as a hot air balloon, a makeshift bowling alley and a racecar were also placed around the floor as accents.

“There were times along the way when there was frustration,” said Bass Pro Shops president Jim Hagale. “But I promise you will not be disappointed.”

Hagale was one of several speakers who talked about the arduous seven-year process of identifying a new use for The Pyramid and then the talks with Bass Pro Shops whom the city approached about the adaptive reuse.

Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris gets a standing ovation during a construction kickoff Thursday of the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in The Pyramid.

(Photo by Lance Murphey)

“I never thought this day would come,” said fisherman and TV show host Bill Dance, whose products are sold by Bass Pro Shops. “This grand old building was getting whiskers – gray ones.”

The city has work to do on seismic measures outside the structure and Bass Pro Shops and the city are negotiating on whose side of the ledger the new skylights to come will be on, said architect Tom Marshall.

His firm has guided both the city’s work to deliver a “warm lit shell” for development by Bass Pro Shops and the conceptual plans by Bass Pro Shops for the store that will include other attractions and an elevated hotel overlooking the store and attractions.

“Bass Pro engages its own artisans including woodcrafters, steelworkers, taxidermists, theatrical makeover type folks including lighting,” Marshall said.

The cypress tree replicas that will be tall enough to reach The Pyramid’s existing lighting grid will be made from high density non-flammable foam made in a workshop at Bass Pro Shops headquarters in Springfield, Mo.

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