Church wants to buy Memphis Pyramid arena - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Church wants to buy Memphis Pyramid arena

The 32-story pyramid-shaped arena sitting empty beside the Memphis riverfront once held screaming crowds of sports and concert fans. Now, a Memphis church wants to fill it with worshippers.

"We're going to be able to pull people from an hour radius, we know, as far as Jackson, Tennessee to the east (and) as far as Forrest City to the west," said Gary Faulkner, pastor of Cummings Street Missionary Baptist Church, whose 5,000-member congregation is offering $12 million for the Memphis Pyramid.

"We've outgrown everything that we have, so now we're worshipping in three different locations."

Once home to University of Memphis basketball and the NBA Grizzlies, the arena has been a financial drag on city and county government for years. Opened in 1991 at a cost of $65 million, it never lived up to financial expectations, though it often hosted top grade concerts and sporting events.

The city and county, which still owe more than $8 million on the building, have been talking for more than two years with Bass Pro Shops of Springfield, Mo., about turning the Pyramid into a megastore for outdoors recreational equipment.

But the city and county have failed to get a solid commitment from Bass Pro.

"The Pyramid has been unoccupied for long enough," Faulkner said.

But if it doesn't, a megachurch rather than a megastore would be fine, too, he said.   Faulkner added he would also develop the arena to include retail and restaurants.

"We're looking at developing that Pyramid inside," he said. "All of that space all around the arena and use it as an incubator for business.">

Faulkner's church is not the first local group to propose new uses for the Pyramid and he has not gone into detail about financing.  But Jim Hutzicker, the county's chief administrative officer, said the church's interest appears genuine.

"We want to get a solid commitment from Bass Pro by the end of the month," Hutzicker said. "If we don't, we will recommend to the (city council and county commission) that they open up the process. The church would be one of those we could consider."

Faulkner said his church is strapped for space and now holds five Sunday services at three different locations.

Thursday, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said Bass Pro negotiations are alive and well.  And if nothing works, Herenton said, get rid of it.

"I'm all in favor of implosion."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here to send an email to Kontji Anthony.

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