Graceland seeks to expand, pushes Memphis to approve tax incentives

FedExForum (Source: WMC Action News 5)
FedExForum (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) continued its push to get new incentives for redeveloping Graceland.

EPE officials took their arguments to Memphis City Council; the meeting comes a week after a similar meeting with Shelby County Commission.

"I would not want to see the city lose anything that it has over a decision that was not vetted 100 percent," City Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said.

EPE is trying to get Memphis and Shelby County to offer property tax incentives that will allow Graceland to build a 5,000-6,000 seat arena in Whitehaven.

While EPE attorneys tried to sell City Council on the deal, some council members pushed back due to the lawsuit EPE has already filed.

"I don't want this body to be looked at as a pawn to sweeten the pot," City Councilman Berlin Boyd said.

Mayor Jim Strickland's administration opposes the use of public incentives to construct an arena. Strickland said doing so would violate a non compete agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies over the FedExForum.

The agreement currently forces the Grizzlies to pay operating losses for FedExForum, not the city or the county.

EPE indicated Tuesday it wouldn't be able to construct the $20 million-arena without tax incentives.

The Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) board has already approved the tax incentives for EPE, with the contingency that a judge determines the arena does not violate the contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.

"Everybody's talking about the risk to the use agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies, so I think more people talking about this than less is important for us as a community because it is a very big deal," Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said.

Shelby County Commission is set to again hear discussions on the topic Wednesday.

Lawyers for both sides said the dispute could take years to resolve.

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