City officials and Graceland move forward on expansion

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis city officials and the operators of Graceland finally agree on how to expand the iconic tourist attraction.

It's been a contentious battle between the city and Elvis Presley Enterprises. After so much ugliness, both parties are happy to finally be moving in a positive direction.

A tentative agreement lays out a list of improvements Graceland's operators can partially fund with tax dollars if their applications are approved through the proper channels.

Among other things, the deal calls for extended sound stages, extra exhibits, expanded retail and roughly 150 more hotel rooms.

In return, Graceland's operators would also construct a new manufacturing facility that will bring hundreds of new jobs with it. Whitehaven residents would get first crack at those jobs, and they would carry a guaranteed minimum wage of $15.50 an hour.

"Now that's a deal. That's a great deal," councilwoman Patrice Robinson said. "We believe that will help lift some of the people who live in our community out of poverty."

Graceland's operators also agree to invest $750,000 worth of proceeds back into the Whitehaven community over five years.

"We deserve it," Robinson said.

The agreement does not address an on-going battle over a proposed large arena at Graceland. The city is unwilling to support it because of a contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. It says the city can't spend public money on something that would compete with FedEx Forum. The issue is wrapped up in court.

James McLaren is EPE's attorney. "That is still in litigation but we want to move forward with what we can agree to move forward with today," he said.

City council will have to approve this agreement. They're expected to vote in two weeks.

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