New plans for Graceland

Today’s Memphis Commercial Appeal has an article describing big–and much needed–changes at Graceland. Bob Sillerman acquired an 85 percent interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises in 2005, and now he is rolling out $250 million worth of projects aimed at keeping the King on his throne.  Longtime President and CEO Jack Soden is the spokesman for the new efforts.

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First is a new visitors center that will eliminate the current, tedious shuttlebus system in which visitors have to get on a bus just to ride across the street. The new center will be on the same side of the street as Graceland, enabling pilgrims to walk through a small grove (maybe the true devotees can crawl) to the mansion. Following the tour, visitors can take “‘another walk through the woods to all-new exhibits — 4D entertainment experience, which is basically taking advantage of every audio-visual technology,’ said Soden.”

Hmmm. Not sure about that fourth dimension. If the Graceland folks have figured out time travel, why not bring Elvis forward instead of taking the visitors back? But I digress.

Other plans include demolishing the Heartbreak Hotel, a 128-room embarassment built in a metal, warehouse-looking structure with all the charm of of a Wal-Mart. I always wondered, given the seediness of the neighborhood, who would want to stay there anyway? It might be fine it you loaded up the DVD player with Elvis movies and settled in for the night, but venturing out after dark now might prove more adventurous than most people have in mind.

That’s the final part of the plan. The Elvis folks hope to transform the neighborhood. We’ll see “‘more hotels, more entertainment, food and beverage, retail, kind of a village,’ Soden said.” This all sounds good, and I’ll keep an eye on the progess.

Sounds like the new owner is “takin’ care of business,” as the King might put it.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

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