Controversy ensues over planned expansion at Graceland

Elvis Presley Enterprises sparks debate over expansion changes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There’s more controversy over the planned expansion by Elvis Presley Enterprises at Graceland.

Memphis City Council delayed a vote on the plans Tuesday evening on the deal that was thought to be done months ago.

“This has been very contentious for a long time,” the company’s lawyer James McLaren said.

The company offered a revision to their Graceland plans by dropping 80,000 square feet of soundstage space and adding a 6,000 seat auxiliary building. The use of the building is unclear.

“It’s a multi-purpose building it’s an auxiliary building and we are trying to be careful to maximize the uses of it,” McLaren said.

Back in March, council members announced an agreement with EPE for development on the Whitehaven campus.

The plans included new guest cabins, an RV park, plane hangars, updates and additions to the Guesthouse at Graceland, and that 80,000 square feet of soundstage space – but without a 6,000 seat concert arena.

The problem is that some council members say they learned EPE could try to hold concerts there on the soundstages, which is the issue that started the fight in the first place.

“It did feel like it was trying to be slid in or get past us in terms of use,” council member Worth Morgan said.

Lawyers for EPE say the March agreement with the city put no limitation on the use of the soundstages.

“The city could have negotiated that with us at the time and they didn’t,” McLaren said.

At the crux of the debate is the city's non-compete agreement with the Memphis Grizzlies over FedEx Forum.

Mayor Jim Strickland has said that’s why public incentives could not be used to construct a 6,000 seat arena or any other type of performance venue.

Some council members question whether that old agreement is holding development back.

“I still go back to what this agreement says, it says the Pyramid or Mid-South Coliseum,” Martavious Jones said.

EPE is asking for additional incentives that will require both EDGE and council approval as well as a vote by the county commission.

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