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VOL. 131 | NO. 161 | Friday, August 12, 2016

Guest House at Graceland Touts Impact on Whitehaven

By Bill Dries

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Whitehaven’s Main Street – Elvis Presley Boulevard – is getting four new restaurants, meeting and conference space and a multi-purpose theater when the $90 million, 450-room Guest House at Graceland resort opens in late October.

The Elvis Presley Enterprises-owned hotel and resort is on schedule and 90 percent done with media tours Wednesday, Aug. 10, on the first day of Elvis Week activities in Whitehaven.

“It’s a great shot in the arm,” said Mike Pramshafer, Guest House vice president of sales and marketing. “This does provide an opportunity for residents of the greater Memphis area to come dine in our restaurants, come see a show in our theater, attend a meeting in our meeting space.

The lobby of the $90 million Guest House at Graceland will look like this rendering by the fall, with work crews on schedule for the Oct. 27 opening of the 450-room hotel on Elvis Presley Boulevard.

(Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc.)

“It will put Whitehaven in the front of people’s minds when they are looking for something to do on a weekend or through the week.”

The tours are the first of two events during Elvis Week, the annual anniversary of the entertainer's death, marking an expansion of Graceland that also promise to change the streetscape along the boulevard.

Elvis Presley Enterprises officials will announce Monday details of the long-awaited $45 million upgrade of Graceland Plaza, directly across the street from the mansion.

The expansion of the visitors and entertainment center is a 200,000 square foot facility. It will offer more restaurants as well as meeting space in addition to remaining the point from which visitors board buses to take the tour of the mansion.

The restaurants at the Guest House include EP’s Country Kitchen, which has a separate kitchen from the other three food offerings. The others include a lobby lounge, a Starbucks and Delta’s Kitchen. Delta’s Kitchen is featuring locally sourced beef, poultry and pork as well as fruits, vegetables and grains.

What will be the third largest hotel in the city when it opens promises to have an economic impact in a part of the city where homeowners and business leaders have fought to keep businesses on Elvis Presley Boulevard until a recent revival.

They have touted an untapped buying power that went to other parts of the city as businesses exited the boulevard.

“This is something that I think Memphis needs,” said Keith Hess, the vice president and managing director of the Guest House. “There is only going to be one guest house in the world.”

During the tours by Hess and Pramshafer, workers were unloading the JBL sound system to be installed in the 464-seat theater that will host everything from business gatherings to live music concerts.

“You don’t see this kind of a theater in a hotel too often,” Hess said.

The theater is just around the corner from a ballroom with room for 900 people at tables with chairs and 1,345 for a reception. The ballroom can be divided and features 17-foot ceilings.

It’s part of 22,000 square feet of meeting space.

Between the two wings of the resort, behind the lobby entrance, is an 8,000-square-foot back lawn where a fire pit was being installed Wednesday and a swimming pool was taking shape. The area will be booked for wedding receptions and other events with an events manager scheduling an ongoing calendar of activities around the bookings.

Hess and Pramshafer emphasized that the hotel will host local events as well as Elvis-themed events for those who come to Memphis for Graceland.

And the Guest House will run a nightly shuttle to the Beale Street entertainment district.

For the Elvis faithful who come to Memphis in their greatest number each summer, there are reminders of the late entertainer everywhere.

A separate front entrance for tour bus business includes a chandelier made in the 1950s as part of a pair bought for the mansion. The other chandelier is in the staircase to Graceland’s upper floor. And some of the suites are modeled after rooms on the upper floor, which is not part of the Graceland tour.

All of the surroundings have a distinct 1970s Las Vegas vibe that were suggested by Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, as well as hotel consultants. Some of the elements are designed to work off specific features in Graceland itself, which 40 years after his death is restored to its appearance in the 1970s.

“Tremendous care went into it,” Pramshafer said. “We tried to visualize what his style and décor would be in today’s world. He had great style. This is what he would like to have in today’s society.”

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