|Elvis Express Radio News
|EPE MAKE MAJOR CHANGES TO PROPOSED VENUE
September 20, 2017 - Commercial Appeal / Elvis Express Radio
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|Graceland owners have abandoned plans for a 6,200-seat concert hall in a proposed events center, citing objections from the Memphis Grizzlies.
A lawyer for Elvis Presley Enterprises told economic development officials Wednesday that the new plan is for a multipurpose facility with no permanent seating, limited to 3,500
spectators and events produced by Graceland and affiliates.
“At the time that we started this discussion I made sure everyone was aware of the fact that the Memphis Grizzlies in their use agreement for the FedExForum have a noncompete
and nonparticipation agreement, which I believe is not violated by this proposal, and your counsel has taken the same position,” attorney James McLaren told the Economic
Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County.
“However the Grizzlies have raised an objection and in order to be good corporate citizens of Memphis my client has agreed to alter the proposal,” McLaren said.
Grizzlies officials declined to speak publicly about the discussions. The team's lease agreement says in part that city funding can't be used for a new venue that could compete with
FedExForum or that seats more than 5,000.
Graceland has used public incentives over the past three years to build a luxury hotel and a new visitor attraction, Elvis Presley’s Memphis. It recently asked the EDGE board to
sweeten one of its incentives to cover the addition of a 50,000 to 75,000 square foot events center at a cost of $40 million to $50 million.
McLaren made the comments during a public hearing held by the EDGE board, which hasn't been asked to vote on the measure yet.
Graceland is seeking a change in the tax increment financing district that helped fund its expansion. The measure diverts 50 percent of increased city-county property taxes
resulting from the expansion to help pay off the project debt. Graceland is asking to divert 65 percent of the increase to the project.
Its previous proposal, previewed to the City Council in August, would have collected a $1 surcharge on each ticket sold for the concert hall and given that money to EDGE to be
spent on improving the surrounding Whitehaven neighborhood.
The surcharge, which might have yielded about $300,000 a year for EDGE, is being ditched because the facility won’t bring in outside concerts and events, McLaren said.
Accompanied by Elvis Presley Enterprises president Jack Soden, McLaren told the EDGE board that changes were made to appease the Grizzlies.
McLaren said the facility would house additional museums, retail, hotel and convention uses, sporting events and public assemblies, "but there would be no ticket surcharge
because the economics on this deal are significantly different.”
EDGE members asked McLaren whether the latest iteration would achieve Graceland’s objectives and satisfy City Council and County Commission members who believe the
incentive should help bring more people into the Whitehaven community.
McLaren said, "You’re going to be using it more for conventions, for other uses that are unrelated, that Elvis Presley Enterprises or its affiliates might have. You might for example
have indoor volleyball tournaments in a facility of that size where you wouldn’t have those in a 6,200-seat arena.”
McLaren said the center “will be programmed in a way to help drive people onto the campus, people into the Whitehaven neighborhood, to increase ticket sales of events and
exhibits at Graceland and increase room nights at the hotel.”
The center could provide a larger space for the kind of entertainment productions that Elvis Presley Enterprises has in the pipeline.
During the August commemoration of Presley’s death, “Elvis: The Wonder of You” was presented at FedExForum, featuring Presley on the big screen and a live symphony
Graceland on Thursday announced the first-ever on-campus holiday concerts. December productions at the Graceland Soundstage, a 1,700-seat venue at Elvis Presley’s Memphis,
will include “An Elvis Gospel Christmas – Live at Graceland” and “Elvis Live in Concert – with an All-Star Band.”
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