Neon Welcome Sign Could Shine Once Again

By Bill Dries

The neon sign on the Lone Star Industries Inc. silos by The Pyramid arena that welcomed visitors to Memphis from the west may be making a comeback of sorts.

The Cannon Center for the Performing Arts will get a digital marquee as part of improvements to the property.

(Memphis Management Group)

A version of the sign, or at least a new Welcome to Memphis message, could be part of plans for a digital display screen on the west wall of the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

Members of the Downtown Memphis Commission Design Review Board suggested Wednesday, Nov. 6, that managers of the convention center consider adding such a sign, as the board approved plans for the 15-foot-by-40-foot digital display screen.

The Lone Star sign – with a neon guitar as the “I” in the word “Memphis” – was put in storage when the silos were demolished as part of Bass Pro Shops’ adaptive reuse of The Pyramid and its surroundings.

Such a sign could be under the digital LED screen approved by the Design Review Board. Some on the board wanted to know if the screen could be bigger.

“Cover the wall,” said board member Ray Brown. “Go big or go home.”

Memphis Management Group LLC, which is part of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, runs the convention center, including the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.

Pierre Landaiche of the management group said the screen is a way of promoting the city and displaying convention center events. And he said selling ads on the board will bring some revenue to the convention center operation, although that isn’t the primary goal.

“The west facade is the perfect opportunity to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to Memphis,” Landaiche said, referring to its visibility from the Hernando DeSoto Bridge crossing the Mississippi River.

Landaiche said the display size he took to the board was a function of the convention center’s budget, but he also noted that he had renderings of a display that was eight times larger.

With this week’s approval, Landaiche said his next step is to seek requests for proposal for the screen.

The Design Review Board also approved a 45-foot-by-8-foot electronic marquee at the Cannon Center’s entrance at the northwest corner of Poplar Avenue and North Main Street. Landaiche said the marquee will be used for coming events at the Cannon Center as his management group begins to focus on booking more concerts at the hall, which is also home to the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

Ellis Auditorium, which was demolished to make way for the Cannon Center, had a backlit marquee at Main Street and Exchange Street when that was the entrance to the auditorium and Exchange was a through street to Front Street.