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Graceland Announces March 2 Opening of 'Elvis Presley's Memphis' Complex

Bill Dries
The Daily News

Graceland will open its $45 million 200,000 square foot Whitehaven entertainment complex March 2-5, the second opening in five months of an expansion of Graceland’s presence in Memphis.

The opening date for the complex of restaurants, museums, shops and performance venues was announced Monday, Nov. 21, by Elvis Presley Enterprises about a month after the opening of the $92-million 450-room Guest House at Graceland hotel and resort.

The complex, on the other side of Elvis Presley Boulevard from the mansion and the resort-hotel, has been renamed “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” after a brief branding as “Elvis: Past, Present & Future” at the August formal groundbreaking for the complex. Before that, it was known in planning documents as Graceland West.

With the setting of an opening date, Graceland also offered more specifics on the elements of the complex, which offer a broader view not only of Presley’s career and impact but also the different music that influenced him. Those exhibits will also explore Memphis culture and history on a broader basis.

“For over 30 years, our fans and visitors have loved the Graceland experience, but our facilities haven’t enabled us to share much more than a small piece of the story, Graceland Holdings LLC managing partner Joel Weinshanker said Monday in a prepared statement. “Now with ‘Elvis Presley’s Memphis,’ you will be able to truly experience all that Memphis offered Elvis, walk through the streets in his footsteps, see what he saw, feel what he felt, live the life of ‘the king.’”

The anchor of Elvis Presley’s Memphis is a 20,000 square foot museum called “Elvis: The Entertainer” that will be about Presley’s music, movies and live touring. It draws from the massive Graceland Archives whose new home is another part of the expansion. Elvis Presley Enterprises bills “The Entertainer” museum as the largest and most comprehensive Elvis Presley museum in the world.

The musical influences areas will be exhibit spaces throughout the complex and will also include areas that showcase Presley’s influence on today’s entertainers.

The main performance area will be a 20,000 square foot “soundstage” that seats up to 2,000 for live music, movie screenings and video productions.

A new automobile museum called “Presley Motors” will also be included with room for 20 automobiles and motorcycles owned by the entertainer and a theater space showing clips from him movies about cars and racing.

The complex will also include two themed restaurants – one called Gladys’ Diner, named for Presley’s mother and Vernon’s Smokehouse, named for Presley’s father.

EPE intends to integrate the area with the mansion and the Guest House on “ultimate VIP” tours with a tour guide leading those visitors through the mansion and Elvis Presley’s Memphis on “an unprecedented journey through Elvis Presley’s life story and the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Once the complex is completed, the plans are to demolish the existing Graceland Plaza area directly in front of it, which has been the entry point for tours of the mansion since it was opened for tours in 1982.

It is a modified retail shopping center that existed on the site during Presley’s lifetime.