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VOL. 128 | NO. 30 | Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Arena Transformation

City prep of The Pyramid for Bass Pro Shops nears completion

By Sarah Baker

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As the city of Memphis is nearing completion of its preparation of The Pyramid for Bass Pro Shops, the Springfield, Mo.-based retailer is slated to start its part of the project in March.

The Pyramid nears the end of a seismic retrofit, as crews prepare to replace the facility’s chillers and air handlers. Bass Pro Shops crews are expected to start work inside the former arena in March.   

(Photos: Lance Murphey)

The city and Bass Pro Shops in January filed two building permits with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for $21.5 million and $7 million for renovations to 32-story The Pyramid arena at 1 A.W. Willis Ave.

When The Pyramid reopens as a Bass Pro Shops, it will be the only adaptive reuse of an arena in the country that is not a church. The agreement for the adaptive reuse of The Pyramid requires the city to deliver what is called a “warm lit shell,” or a basic structure for Bass Pro Shops to put its store and other attractions in.

The city’s work toward that goal included taking out the seating bowl used when the structure was an arena as well as the seismic measures – a $45 million project. The city also gave Bass Pro a $30 million contribution toward its build-out of the interior.

The 220,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World will include an aquarium, museum, cabins, Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl restaurant and bowling alley, zip lines and floating docks.

It’s tentatively scheduled to open by the end of the year, said project manager Alan Barner of O.T. Marshall Architects.

“This is going to be one of their largest stores – it basically gives you an outdoor experience inside the building,” Barner said. “This store will be four times the size of the Sycamore View store.”

Both the seismic retrofit inside the building and the below-ground seismic retrofit are finished.

“We’re probably 90 percent complete with the overall seismic retrofit,” Barner said. “We’re just wrapping up a few shear walls and new pilings around the perimeter currently and those will be complete by the end of March.”

The city started its mechanical systems package on Monday, Feb. 11. Barner said that includes installing new chillers, refurbishing the boilers and rebuilding the cooling tower. Bass Pro will eventually attach to the new systems for all of its air distribution.

The city still has one package left to bid, which is the site work that will rework The Pyramid’s parking lot and add a new entrance off of Front Street. That bid will be sent out by the end of March.

A worker prepares concrete for a giant steel plate, part of a seismic retrofit of The Pyramid, which is being converted into a Bass Pro Shops store.

Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC has been the low bidder on all three of the packages so far – air conditioning, seismic retrofit and interior demolition. Separate of that, the local contractor is working in conjunction with Chicago-based Graycor Construction Co. Inc., the firm that’s been chosen by Bass Pro for its part of the work.

Graycor has assisted Bass Pro in several of its stores nationwide, such as its Gaylord Opryland store in Nashville and its Spanish Fort, Ala., retailer.

“We’re Graycor’s local partner, helping them make sure that we get a lot of local subcontractor and vendor participation and making sure that minority contractors get a fair shake at everything,” said H. Montgomery Martin, company president and CEO.

But local participation doesn’t stop there. Katie Mitchell of Bass Pro’s communications department said there are “some very exciting things planned” because of the uniqueness of The Pyramid’s location and layout.

“It’s going to be a store unlike any other Bass Pro stores that we offer,” Mitchell said. “Each one of them is different in some respects because they are regionalized to the area that they are located in.

“We authenticate the outdoors heritage and traditions of that particular area, and the very nature of the design of The Pyramid lends itself to all kinds of exciting things that’s going to be a first for Bass Pro Shops’ store design.”

When Bass Pro comes in for its build out, they’ll place their retail store and improvements inside The Pyramid, as well as create a “grand entry” structure on the south, Barner said.

“When you enter (The Pyramid), the main entry will be from the south,” Barner said. “You’ll kind of walk over what they’re calling the river, so as soon as you enter the store and get through the front doors, the experience will begin.”

There will be an additional “after hours entry and exit” to the north for the bowling alley and full-service restaurant, Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl. Uncle Buck’s will also handle food and beverage for the hotel component of Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, which has had several variations – including as many as 200 rooms – and locations in The Pyramid’s footprint since the earliest stages of the project.

“We have retrofitted the superstructure, but the seismic needed for that many hotel rooms just was cost prohibitive,” Barner said.

Barner said the plans now call for each of the 60 to 70 cabin-style hotel rooms to have a private balcony that overlooks the interior Cyprus swamp that will be in the middle of the store. The rooms will be single level around The Pyramid’s plaza level, the level entered off of Front.

“With this one story of hotel rooms we’re able to bear on the existing structure,” Barner said.

The Cyprus swamp is a series of five pools on the existing arena floor, all having different types of wildlife. Ziplines with three points will run across the swamp.

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