Developers planning big changes at Graceland

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The owners of Graceland are getting serious about plans for a redevelopment project that would rejuvenate the popular Heartbreak Hotel and spruce up 100 acres surrounding Elvis Presley's home.

Robert Sillerman, whose company CKX Inc. bought controlling interest of Elvis Presley Enterprises in 2004, says he is returning to Memphis next month to plan the tourist mecca's future.

"They've been accumulating a lot of property for a long time and to see that develop is going to be very exciting," said Kevin Kane, president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Sillerman first talked about a $250 million redevelopment of the area several years ago.

At the time, work was to include demolition of the old visitors center and Heartbreak Hotel so they could be replaced with larger, better facilities and hotels with convention halls and improved public spaces.

"When you think of all the bells and whistles that are out there right now, it's almost limitless what can be done," Kane said.

And planners hope upgraded facilities would attract more tourists.

"Graceland's averaging between 600,000 and 700,000 visitors a year," Kane said. "Their goal is for over a million visitors a year."

Most exhibits, like the Elvis Experience, would move to the same side of the street as the mansion.  

Next month's event will be a 2-day intensive planning session.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.  The AP contributed to this story.