MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - When you look at the downtown Memphis horizon, there’s no denying the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid defines the skyline.
Reeling in three million visitors its first year alone, Memphis owes Bass Pro’s economic impact to one catfish.
On November 10, 2005, Morris and famed Mid-South fisherman Bill Dance were casting lines nearby, “So they say well let’s make a bet. If we catch a catfish that’s 30 pounds we’ll turn it into Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid,” Bass Pro Shops Special Events Coordinator Carmen Jones explained.
A 34-pound blue catfish took the bait and Johnny Morris fulfilled the bet converting the then abandoned Memphis Grizzlies NBA arena into Bass Pro’s largest store.
“We like to say thank you to that catfish for making Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid a reality,” chuckled Jones.
Jones says you can spend hours in the store just exploring the 535,000-square-foot outdoorsman’s paradise.
“I’ve had people come for a second or third visit and ask if an original exhibit was new. It’s a lot to take in,” she smiled.
If you like fishing, shopping, hunting, shooting, good food, breathtaking views, or weekend getaways in vintage log cabins, you’re in the right place.
Big Cypress Lodge Marketing Manager Courtney Goff credits Bass Pro Founder Johnny Morris for the attention to detail.
“You will notice that everything is themed to make sure that you know that the great outdoors are right here in downtown Metropolitan Memphis so you feel like you are escaping and learning about that nature conservation,” said Goff.
WMC Action News 5′s Kontji Anthony went inside the Pyramid to show you the best of Memphis' great outdoors. Just past the entryway, a Big Cypress Swamp, with ponds, cypress trees and prehistoric Sturgeon that can live more than 100 years.
“We have six American male alligators. They are about four to five feet long now, and up to about 30 to 40 pounds,” explained Jones.
“Take a selfie with a bear. Take a selfie with an alligator. Take a selfie with a caribou. It doesn’t matter where you go,” Jones added.
On top of all the retail, from apparel to boats to a general store, the dog-friendly space has endless amenities and events.
“We have Easter, we do field trips we have catch and release, fishing seminars, cooking seminars, fencing seminars, food samples,” said Jones.
Our camera arrived just in time for the daily, 10 a.m. aquarium and fish feeding.
“This exhibit is about 38,000 gallons of freshwater,” the aquarium guide explained over a microphone. A scuba diver feeds the fish by hand as the guide tells you about all of the native fish.
On the 2nd and 3rd floors is Big Cypress Lodge, a 103-room wilderness hotel. The most impressive quarters, The Governor Suite.
“This is our biggest room in Big Cypress, almost 2000 square feet,” said Goff. “You have a deck overlooking Bass Pro Shops in the Cypress Swamp Below, we have some exterior rooms where you’ve got a deck are great views of the Mississippi River.”
With two bedrooms, a kitchen and living room, the giant suite sleeps eight and has an incredible view.
“You have a deck overlooking Bass Pro Shops in the Cypress Swamp Below, we have some exterior rooms where you’ve got a deck are great views of the Mississippi River,” Goff added.
You can rent space for meetings and celebrations, and there’s a fitness center and luxury Gould’s spa.
“It’s just beautiful really relaxing to where, you know, you’re on a massage table in the middle of the great outdoors so it’s a really unique experience,” Goff explained.
If you work up an appetite in the 13-lane bowling alley, head to one of two restaurants, either on the ground floor or at the top of the pyramid’s peak with a 10,000-gallon catfish aquarium.
Actor Mark Wahlburger’s family burger chain is taking over food and beverage. They’ll open the very first-of-its-kind “Wahlburgers Wild.”
“We’ll have all different kinds of game meats, whether it’s bison, elk, you know your normal hamburgers as well, but just a little bit of everything that’s going to really diversify and really bring in that great outdoors. You could have just gone hunting or just gone fishing and have a really great meal,” Goff explained.
One of the newest attractions is the Mississippi Terrace on the third floor. The outdoor patio offers up hand-crafted cocktails, small appetizers, oversized furniture, fire pits and a live music stage for the grownups in your group.
Bass Pro has instructors for its archery and pistol ranges, one of only eight Beretta gun galleries in the world, a Fly Fishing Lodge and the Ducks Unlimited Waterfowling Heritage Center wetlands education museum with native wildlife and conservation displays.
The centerpiece, quite literally, is this glass elevator. The tallest freestanding elevator in the United States at more than 28 stories above the Bluff City. An experience in itself as you head to the top.
“To the top of the pyramid is actually taller than the Statue of Liberty by about 17 feet,” said Jones.
Once you reach your destination you’ll find the experience you cannot miss: the Glass Observation Deck where you’ll feel suspended more than 28 stories in the air with views across the river and downtown Memphis.
“You can grab cocktails and have a really great look at downtown. Really exploring, seeing all the big buildings and seeing the Mighty Mississippi right across the street, as well as the Mighty Lights on the bridges at night,” Goff suggested.
Bass Pro Shops Pyramid has, arguably, the best view in the Mid-South, but it takes more than one visit to take it all in and don’t forget to try the fudge!