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|WEINSHANKER MAKES BIZZARE THREAT TO MEMPHIS
|In the midst of a dispute with the city of Memphis, the man who manages Elvis Presley’s former home and the surrounding attractions made an extraordinary threat: Graceland might
leave Memphis and find a new place to dwell.
“We had an offer ten days ago to move Graceland to Japan,” Joel Weinshanker, managing director of Elvis Presley Enterprises, said. “We had two offers to move to the Middle
East and one [to move] to China. They offered us more profit than we could ever make in Memphis.”
The idea that Graceland could be dismantled and shipped overseas, like the old London Bridge that was sent to Arizona, has been forestalled, however, by an expected deal that
would grant tax incentives on a $US100 million expansion.
There would be a hangar for Elvis’s planes, an enlarged guesthouse for visitors and a club modelled on the carpet-walled Jungle Room, an eccentrically decorated
living room in Elvis’s mansion. The city council is expected to approve the deal this month.
It had been held up by concerns over a 6000-seat concert arena planned in the expansion.
The city had previously agreed that it would only allow for the use of public funds on a single concert venue, an arena that is also the home of the local basketball team.
A lawyer for Mr Weinshanker’s company told the Memphis Business Journal last week that the agreement reached with the city would preclude the use of funds from tax incentives
on the new concert arena.
Mr Weinshanker said that Graceland already had a soundstage where it could hold concerts and a 500-seat theatre inside a newly built guesthouse, that has replaced the elderly
Heartbreak Hotel. The concert arena “will be done by 2022”, he said on Monday. “We have a deal with Live Nation, we will have about fifty concerts a year.”
He acknowledged that it was rather unlikely that Graceland would have been moved. “No matter how famous Elvis got, no matter how much money he made, he always came
back to Memphis,” he added.
He said that dollars $US750,000 from the tax break scheme would be reinvested into a local community project. Mr Weinshanker, 48, said that this was in keeping with the spirit of
the King: when he was alive “he would go down to the gates, there would be 50 people waiting for him, he would say: ‘Let’s go to the movie theatre,’ and he would pay for
their tickets, buy them all popcorn,” he said.
An archivist had found plans suggesting that he had hoped to build a guesthouse too, Mr Weinshanker said, but he added: “It wasn’t as big as the one we built.”
Under the expansion plan the guesthouse, which has 450 rooms, would get another 150.
The hangar for Elvis’s planes would also function as a party space, he said. “We get all the time people wanting to have parties at Graceland.”
He said Elvis’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, 51, was “very involved” in the project. “When she knows what is happening, she has this little smirk. It’s the way Elvis would
have done it,” he said. “When she speaks, you are looking at her dad.”
After the White House, Graceland is the most-visited private home in the US, drawing 600,000 people last year. It was opened to the public in 1982, five years after the death of
Elvis, and as the mansion became a place of pilgrimage, Elvis Presley Enterprises took over the shopping centre across the road, which was steadily filling up with souvenir shops.
Lisa Marie Presley still owns the mansion and its gardens, but has made it permanently available to Elvis Presley Enterprises, in which she has a share. Mr Weinshanker took over
the company in 2013.
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Originating Source - The Times