Extreme makeover: Graceland updating visitor center

AP News
Posted: Aug 15, 2016 2:17 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A new entertainment complex being built across the street from Graceland — Elvis Presley's former home-turned-museum — will include a large soundstage for live performances and movie screenings, and an exhibit honoring influential music producer Sam Phillips, officials said Monday.

A large artist's rendering of the planned 200,000 square-foot entertainment center was unveiled by Joel Weinshanker and Jack Soden, two executives of Elvis Presley Enterprises.

The $45 million complex is set to open next spring, replacing the aging visitor center across the street from the Graceland home where the rock and roll singer and film star spent 20 years before his death on Aug. 16, 1977.

Construction has begun on the complex, part of a $137 million expansion that will also include a $92 million, 450-room hotel, The Guest House at Graceland, which is set to open Oct. 27. Graceland received a tax incentive package for the expansion project.

"It's the fruition of a long-held dream," Soden said.

For about three decades, Graceland's visitors have been flowing through aging, gray, flat-roofed buildings to see exhibits highlighting Presley's career, a car museum, souvenir shops and restaurants. Most of those buildings will be torn down to make way for the new complex.

The car museum will be moved to the new campus, but the attraction featuring Presley's two airplanes will remain in its current location, also across the street from the house.

The cornerstone of the new complex will be a 20,000 square-foot museum featuring hundreds of Presley-related artifacts. The complex will also have a diner, a barbecue restaurant, an ice cream shop, retail stores full of Presley-related merchandise and the Graceland Soundstage, which will have seating for 2,000 people.

An exhibit honoring Phillips, the producer and label owner who recorded Presley's early music at Sun Studio and was an important influence in Presley's career, will include rare artifacts, photos, videos and documents from the Phillips family archives. Phillips also recorded Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and others before his death in 2003.