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VOL. 129 | NO. 35 | Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tour Shows Work Progressing in Pyramid

By Bill Dries

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The opening date for Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid is still tentative.

Bill Dance welcomes members of the media and dignitaries on this week’s City Council tour of the Bass Pro Shops conversion at The Pyramid.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But it appears to now be in December depending on who you talked with this week as the outdoors retailer offered a look inside The Pyramid.

Famed fisherman and television host Bill Dance subbed for Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris during the Tuesday, Feb. 18, tour for Memphis City Council members. Dance told the group of several dozen people that The Pyramid would reopen as a Bass Pro Shops superstore and other attractions “hopefully” by Dec. 1.

Architect Tom Jowett said “late December” for an opening date of the store and the other attractions Bass Pro Shops will have at The Pyramid.

Four strings of lights in the center of the former arena space marked the location of the elevators to the top of The Pyramid with excavation to come for the pond at the bottom that will feature live alligators.

Jowett said the structure of the elevators should start to take shape in another week.

Some metal framing on the third level of the building represents the start of the 101-room hotel. The rest of the features to come were represented by banners and a bit more framing.

More work appeared to have been done outside The Pyramid, especially along the southern entrance that will have a park setting. The ramp that once led up to the main south entrance is gone with a large pile of concrete rubble by the southwest corner of the building.

One skeptical visitor suggested asking how long the construction workers had been on the site. The suggestion is a reflection of past Pyramid events that have turned out to be ahead of the reality in the long-touted adaptive reuse of what opened in late 1991 as a 20,000-seat arena.

The city marked the end of its part of the construction and the beginning of Bass Pro’s part of the project in June 2012 while the city was still working on the seismic measures required by the state. Bass Pro Shops began its part of the project in August, more than a year later.

When Bass Pro Shops began work, the estimate was that a ride to the top of The Pyramid would be ready by March with other features coming online in October.

City Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb told council members Tuesday that he just wanted to dispel the notion that nothing was happening.

“It showed a lot of construction going on,” he said. “We wanted to prove to the public that there was something going on.”

Lipscomb continued to champion the city’s pursuit of Bass Pro Shops during the administration of Mayor Willie Herenton as the only adaptive reuse of an arena in the country that did not involve converting the arena into a mega-church.

“I know it’s been a long time coming,” he added. “But I think it’s worth the wait. I don’t think anyone’s waited longer than I have. I had hair when this started.”

Jowett described the project as “fully under construction” and “on schedule.”

Work crews stopped for about an hour as the council and some Shelby County Commissioners and others looked around in a roped-off area through a western entrance into The Pyramid by the city floodwalls. Cranes and bulldozers idled or moved relatively quietly across the dirt surface where the arena floor once was.

Toward the end of the hour, a crane began working again, raising the noise level considerably within the structure.

“As soon as you left, the noise level was pretty intense,” Jowett told the council.

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