Elvis Presley Enterprises has a deal with the City of Memphis for an expansion of Graceland, the famous home and museum of Elvis Presley, promising over 1,000 new jobs.
This project will include several guest cabins for tourists to stay in, new exhibits, stores and restaurants, an update to the current Graceland Guesthouse and more than 100 new rooms along with it. A new several-thousand-seat concert arena had been in speculation for a time, and even after the announcement for expansion, the arena is still in discussions.
For Amarjit Keshav — a travel agent for Cruise Planners who specializes in helping families plan out weddings, vacations and anything specializing in tourism — said this expansion is great for Memphis because they are recognizing the things that are biggest in this city and building on it to make it even bigger.
“This city is obviously not a tourist destination, but what we do have is loads of history,” Keshav said. “It is very smart that the city officials recognize that and use it to their advantage and bring in even more people to visit. Perhaps, in the future, they can add more to places like the Lorraine Motel, Stax Museum, Civil Rights Museum and places of that nature that will focus more on our strengths.”
John “JJ” Guinozzo, a Memphis sports and city historian, said the expansion of Graceland is a great way to continue to pay respect to someone who helped shape the identity of Memphis and what it is known for.
For several years, Guinozzo has studied the history of Memphis through athletics and pop culture, and he said he believes Elvis bleeds all through the city’s history pages.
“Blues, barbecue, basketball and Elvis is what this city is rooted in,” Guinozzo said. “This community embodies him as a legend, and he is a huge reason why we even get a lot of tourists, because it definitely isn’t because of our weather. Graceland is what we have left of him, and he was as big as it got, so it is a good time to make his museum even bigger.”
Graceland has been around since the 1800s as a large farm owned by a wealthy family but got its fame when a young and charming 22-year-old musical prodigy named Elvis Presley bought the mansion and its land right after coming back from his first year as a superstar.
For the rest of his life — from starring in Hollywood movies, to singing the biggest hit songs each year, to immersing himself as a pop-culture legend — Graceland was his love letter to Memphis. Even with his many trips to Hawaii, his houses in Los Angeles and worldwide fame, Memphis was his safe haven and home.
After Presley died in 1977, his estate was turned over to his daughter Lisa Marie, and she eventually let it be open to the public and sold close to 85 percent of it by 2005. From there, Graceland has become the second most visited private home, only behind the White House, and has drawn hundreds of thousands of tourists per year.