You’d expect relations between Graceland and the Memphis City Council to be great. After all, so many people come to visit Graceland. Well, they’re not so great right now.
The whole area around Graceland is a money machine. So when there’s talk of expansion, people at Memphis City Hall listen. When there’s talk that the Elvis Presley Enterprises wants additional tax breaks and wants the city to help pay for a new 5,000 seat arena next to Graceland, that really makes them pay attention.
Two lawyers represented EPE. They say they can use public money to help build the new arena, and it wouldn’t violate a non-compete agreement that city officials agreed to with the Memphis Grizzlies. In fact, lawyer James Mclaren says they intend to go to court fight their case.
As far as their expansion project, and the proposed arena, Mclaren says, “It takes a public/private partnership to make these developments work.”
He mentions it was public/private money that helped build the new hotel a few years ago. It’s the arena that’s the big issue.
The Grizzlies agreed to pay operating losses at FedExForum as long as there is a non-compete. That adds up to a lot of money; money taxpayers would have been forced to pay if the agreement didn’t exist.
For example, Bridgestone Arena in Nashville is expected to lose $5-million this year just to give you an idea.
If Elvis Presley Enterprises paid for the arena itself, the non-compete agreement wouldn’t be affected.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says the solution to all of this is easy, saying, “they can build it with their own money, just not with cash out of the city budget.”
Absolutely nothing was accomplished at this first discussion between EPE and the Memphis City Council. They will meet again in a few weeks. Meanwhile, Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen isn’t upset with all the questions and concerns.
“I think this is a good thing for us to have,” he says, “An open public discussion about how we want to see our community develop and what we want to see happen at Graceland.”