New exhibits, restaurants open with Elvis Presley's Memphis

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Elvis Presley's Memphis opened to the public on Thursday. It's the second phase of a massive expansion project that cost $130 million.

More than just a tourist attraction, the project is an opportunity for people and businesses in Whitehaven.

Elvis Presley's Memphis created hundreds of new jobs, including positions at the new museum and hotel, The Guest House at Graceland.

"We are proud of the fact that 70-75 percent of our employees live in the 38116 area code in Whitehaven," Graceland CEO Jack Soden said.

Even the affectionately named "Mayor of Whitehaven," Hazel Moore, is excited about the new locations.

"With the dollars coming in here, it's going to help build this community," Moore said. "It's just fabulous to know that people would come from all over the world to come out here and see this."

Grand Opening

Dressed in Elvis gear from head to toe, The King's biggest fans from around the world flocked to Graceland for the grand opening of the new entertainment complex and museum.

"It's just something new," Laurie Harvat said. "It's a change. The old plaza was nice. It's always nice to have new things, too."

"I think this is going to be quite an addition to Graceland," said Marian Cocke, who once served as Elvis' nurse.

The $45 million entertainment complex and museum is part of Graceland's new expansion and enhancement to the visitor experience, including the boutique hotel, The Guest House at Graceland.

The 200,000 square-foot center is five times larger than the previous visitor center.

"I think it's great," Cocke said. "It gives the people more of an opportunity to know more about Elvis."

Click here to see a sneak peek inside the museum

The space features the most comprehensive Elvis exhibit in the world, "Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum." The exhibit will feature the iconic jumpsuits, gold and platinum records, movie memorabilia, and more. The complex will also include other exhibits, "Icons: The influence of Elvis Presley," "The County Road to Rock," and "Fashion King."

You will also be able to dine at Vernon's Smokehouse or Gladys' Diner or enjoy a show in the 20,000 square-foot multipurpose space.

Graceland's expansion creates potential for noticeable economic growth in the Whitehaven area.

The recently opened hotel, along with "Elvis Presley's Memphis," created an estimated 280 new jobs. It also helps reinforce Memphis as a popular tourist destination.

"Our tourism entity is growing as a whole which is great for the bottom line of our economy," Elvis Presley Enterprises Director of Public Relations Kevin Kern said.

The expansion is also getting Elvis fans like Laurie Harvat "all shook up" with excitement.

"Now that they have these special things like the grand opening of the hotel and all the new complexes, I'm here making special extra trips for the year," Harvat said.

Priscilla Presley visits Graceland

The King's ex-wife, Priscilla, also came to town to celebrate.

"It's a long time coming," she said. "We are very excited here at Graceland."

She said items that have been stored in warehouses for years are finally seeing the light of day, thanks to 200,000 square feet of new space.

That space allows Elvis' iconic style and vision to breathe. It also allows Elvis' fans to take in even more of the legendary musician.

"It just gives you the full understanding and meaning of who he was and what he contributed and all of his generosities and talent," Priscilla said.

Her favorite part of the new museum is Elvis' gold and platinum record wall. She said it shows the world how much he accomplished in his lifetime.

Priscilla said you can't help falling in love with the new and improved experience, but she warns it will take a few days to take it all in.

"It's a huge responsibility I've taken on myself really to make sure to get it right with who he was he was so much more than rock and roll," Priscilla said.

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