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VOL. 133 | NO. 82 | Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Graceland Map Shows New Arena, Convention Center and Manufacturing Center

By Bill Dries

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This map, released by Graceland Monday, shows a new exhibit area and a new arena west of the Elvis Presley's Memphis entertainment complex. The areas in yellow are new parts of Graceland's expansion plan that Graceland is seeking financing and approval of. Source: Elvis Presley Enterprises 

A new map of plans for the Graceland campus in Whitehaven shows two “exhibit buildings” of 80,000 square feet each on either side of a “live event center” Elvis Presley Enterprises wants to build on the western border behind its Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex.

The plan and rendering released Monday, April 23, by Graceland Holdings LLC managing partner Joel Weinshanker, also includes:

• A “Made in USA Outlet” building of more than 64,000 square feet on Elvis Presley Boulevard’s west side, directly across the boulevard from the Guest House at Graceland.

• An aircraft hangar for the two restored jets owned by Elvis Presley.

• A new wing for the Guest House.

Weinshanker and Graceland leaders will take the plan to Whitehaven residents Thursday evening for a community meeting at the Guest House “to learn the facts directly from Graceland,” a flyer for the event reads. 

It also touts 1,000 new jobs to created by the expansion.

The 6 p.m. session comes as Graceland is seeking financing for both the arena and exhibit space with approval earlier this month from the Economic Development Growth Engine, the city-county agency that approves economic incentives for such projects.

The EDGE board approved a plan that would specifically increase the flow of city and county property tax revenue through a tax increment financing district, or TIF, to the financing of the Guest House at Graceland and Elvis Presley’s Memphis. Graceland would then use the money it now puts toward financing those two projects toward the financing of a 6,000- to 7,000-seat arena estimated to cost $50 million.

The arrangement is called the Graceland Economic Impact Plan and the EDGE board’s approval of it is conditioned on judicial review through a Chancery Court lawsuit Elvis Presley Enterprises filed against EDGE earlier.

Graceland’s position is that the arrangement means it can build the arena and not violate the non-compete agreement the Memphis Grizzlies has with the city and county governments for the part of the Grizzlies organization that operates FedExForum for the both local governments.

The non-compete says the city and county cannot finance any indoor arena with more than 5,000 fixed seats without the approval of the Grizzlies. In return, the Grizzlies are responsible for any red ink in the operation of the forum.

Prior to the Chancery Court lawsuit against EDGE, Graceland sued the Grizzlies, the city and the county over the non-compete. Chancellor Jim Kyle dismissed the lawsuit saying Graceland isn’t a party to the non-compete.

“The arena will also serve as a prime location for local Whitehaven community events,” the flyer about the Thursday meeting reads. “The new exhibit space will bring more tourists to our community who will shop in Whitehaven stores, eat in Whitehaven restaurants and stay in Whitehaven hotels/motels. The new manufacturing facility will create a new manufacturing hub right here in Whitehaven – with a focus on hiring Whitehaven residents.”

Memphis chief operating officer Doug McGowen has said the administration of Mayor Jim Strickland still has concerns that the expansion of the TIF and a shift of Graceland’s financing to the arena “puts the city at risk of violating the use agreement” on FedExForum.

“This is tantamount to directly providing TIF revenue to the arena which, as mentioned, is prohibited in the use agreement if the arena is deemed to compete with FedEx Forum,” McGowen said when EDGE approved the convention center and arena with conditions.

“Conditions have changed considerably since the development by EPE started,” McGowen said. “What was once an un-bankable project is now performing so well that additional phases can be built using the existing public revenue streams, and as EPE asserts, the arena can be constructed with private resources and commercial financing without directly applied public incentive.

“Because the arena puts the city at risk, and because the requested incentive was not clearly tied to developments in the plan that do not risk violating the agreement, the City of Memphis cannot support the project as presented.”

City chief legal officer Bruce McMullen also said he had hoped Graceland and the Grizzlies could work out some agreement without the matter being decided in court.

PROPERTY SALES 53 210 10,146
MORTGAGES 53 214 11,160
BUILDING PERMITS 245 474 22,646
BANKRUPTCIES 271 271 6,490