The Memphis Pyramid

The Memphis Pyramid
Image provided by The Memphis Pyramid

Address 1 Auction Avenue
Memphis TN 38105
Phone (901) 521-9675
Official Website
  Venue Particulars  
Seating Location
Weather Newspaper
Articles Pictures
Team Page
Inter@ctive Venues
  The Facility  
Date Built 1991
City of Memphis and Shelby County
Cost of Construction $65 Million
Arena Financing Public
Architect Rosser International
  Other Facts  
Tenants Memphis Grizzlies
(NBA) 2001-Present
Memphis Tigers
Population Base 1,300,000
On Site Parking 2,000
Nearest Airport Unknown
Basketball 20,142
Luxury Suites 28 Suites
Club Seats 1,000
  Attendance History  
2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05
591,030 611,322 622,723 691,362
Season  Total  Capacity Change
2000-01 563,218 71.6% -1.2%
1999-00 569,864 72% 36.3%
1998-99 417,966 87% -36.7%
1997-98 660,457 84% -3.0%
1996-97 679,422 86% -3.6%
1995-96 704,489 90% NA
1995-01 - Attendance at General Motors Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
1998-99 - Attendance for 25 games due to NBA lockout.

Sources: Mediaventures

The Pyramid Arena in Memphis Tennessee is one of the most uniquely designed structures on earth. The 32 story Pyramid is the third largest pyramid in the world and soars even taller than the Statue of Liberty or the Taj Mahal. Managed and operated by SMG, this 21,000 seat sports and entertainment facility is home to the NBA Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis Men's Basketball Program and is well known for hosting national basketball tournaments, concerts and family shows.

Here are a few quick facts about The Pyramid Arena:




Loading Dock:

Freight Elevator:



Dressing Rooms:

The Memphis Pyramid

Green Room:


Production Office:



Disabled Patron Services:

June 14, 2001
Copyright 2000 MediaVentures

While political officials in Memphis finalize plans to build a new arena for the Vancouver Grizzlies, public support for the new NBA team is weakening. A new poll taken for the Memphis Commercial Appeal shows just over half of local residents support the county's financing plan, but up to two-thirds have some concerns about individual elements. The city and county already approved their funding packages. Some elements of state funding are awaiting approval.

A large number of those polled are concerned that attendance won't live up to projections and a nearly equal number believe their taxes will increase to help fund the arena. Residents were polled about the plan in general and then again after explaining elements of the financing plan. When offered a choice between the current plan or no NBA team, support for a new $250 million arena did not change.

Most of those polled liked the idea of using arena revenues to finance the building, but they also opposed the use of revenue bonds described as "less secure" than general obligation bonds.

Meanwhile, a group of citizens opposed to the plan have mailed 50,000 letters to Memphis-area residents hoping to fill a petition with names and force a referendum. The group has not revealed the source of its funding. The mailing included a return envelope with a live stamp.

The Memphis Pyramid
The group says it's not opposed to the team, but to the funding plan. It needs 41,000 signatures by June 15 to force a city election and 58,000 to force a county vote.

A judge also allowed a lawsuit challenging the financing plan to move forward. The suit claims the financing plan constitutes an illegal public loan to a private firm. The decision allows the suit to move forward with the filing of position papers. The judge will then reconsider the lawsuit's merits.

The lawsuit could prove to be a problem, regardless of its success. The NBA wants to have all necessary documents in place before it approves the move. Local investors want to tied up those details by the end of this week.

November 20, 2008
Copyright 2008 MediaVentures

Memphis, Tenn. - An agreement approved by the Shelby County Commission gives Bass Pro Shops a year to plan a transformation of the vacant Pyramid arena into an outdoor-sports superstore.

And now that both the commission and Memphis City Council have approved the development deal, government officials say it is up to Bass Pro to follow through with plans - three years in the making - to turn the Pyramid into a mixed-use facility with a retail store, hotel, restaurants and museum.

"I just hope they're still interested," said Robert Lipscomb, city project manager for arena reuse, following the commission vote. "I'll place a call and tell them what happened. ... We've got to see where we go from here."

Springfield, Mo.-based Bass Pro spokesman Larry Whiteley said the company still hopes to proceed.

"As far as I know, we're looking forward to moving on" with the project, he said.

After signing its first letter of intent in late 2005, Bass Pro signed a development agreement in August that would give the company another 12 months to sign a long-term lease on The Pyramid. The agreement required the go-ahead from both legislative bodies, and while the city council approved it in October, commissioners have repeatedly expressed concerns about the deal and voted it down in committee.

But they reversed that decision with a 9-3 vote that authorizes Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton to sign the contract for a 12-month development period with quarterly milestones that Bass Pro must meet.

This allows the company to finish planning and gathering all necessary permits and approvals before signing a long-term lease on the building. During the next year, Bass Pro will make monthly payments of $35,000 and pay a $500,000 penalty if the company chooses to pull out of the agreement. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)

April 15, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Memphis, Tenn. - Seismic issues which had delayed an agreement between the City of Memphis and Bass Pro have been resolved and officials of both sides say they are close to an agreement that would turn the city's retired arena, the Pyramid, into a new store for the outdoor retailer.

"We reached an agreement with standards for seismic and adaptive reuse of the building," Mayor A C Wharton said during an executive committee meeting of the Memphis City Council. "They didn't want to make any investment until we reached an agreement on seismic standards and the retrofit."

Bass Pro and city officials have been considering an initial 20-year lease on the building, with seven renewal periods of five years each.

In coming weeks, city officials are expected to ask the state to extend the tourism development zone, which now includes the Memphis Cook Convention Center, to cover The Pyramid.

That designation is a key part of Bass Pro's plan to finance the transformation of the old arena. Memphis created a tourism-development zone in 2004 under state law that allows it to use the increased state sales tax revenue generated there for state-approved "public purposes."

Bass Pro has been in negotiations since late 2005 with Memphis to turn the unused Pyramid into a $100 million regional center with retail shops, restaurants, offices and a Mississippi River exhibit.

In February 2009, the city signed an agreement giving the company until Dec. 31, 2009, to finish planning and gathering the necessary permits before signing a long-term lease.

In December, the City Council agreed to extend the agreement with Bass Pro until March 31.

Bass Pro has been paying the city $35,000 a month since signing the 2009 agreement and committed to paying a $500,000 penalty if it pulled out of the deal.

May 20, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Memphis, Tenn. - Memphis will use its entire allotment of federal recovery act funds - $70 million - to prepare The Pyramid arena for a new life and enhance the neighborhood around it. The venue was retired when the FedEx Forum opened.

The money will be used to prepare the arena for Bass Pro Shops, strengthen it against earthquakes and bring new sidewalks, lighting, signs, drainage and other infrastructure to the adjacent Pinch District, Robert Lipscomb, the city's director of Housing and Community Development, said.

The spending also continues the city's strategy to protect the thousands of jobs at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a few blocks east of The Pyramid.

If Uptown had not been improved, Lipscomb said, St. Jude would not have made its "$3 billion expansion."

Completion of a lease agreement is "imminent" with Bass Pro Shops, which would redevelop The Pyramid arena into a mix of retail, entertainment and offices, he said.

Once Bass Pro Shops commits to remake The Pyramid, Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers would launch a related project to redevelop a swath of the Pinch District extending east from The Pyramid toward St. Jude. Complementing Bass Pro Shops' adaptation of The Pyramid, the Pinch District project also would be a mix of retail, restaurants and entertainment.

July 1, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Memphis, Tenn. - The City of Memphis and Bass Pro Shops have concluded lengthy lease negotiations for the Pyramid that will allow the company to turn the arena into a retail, entertainment and tourism destination, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Bass Pro envisions a $100 million regional center with retail shops, restaurants, offices and a Mississippi River exhibit.

The deal calls for the city to pay $30 million toward construction and seismic retrofitting costs for The Pyramid, which the city will continue to own.

Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb called the agreement "a game changer." "It's taking an under-performing asset and transforming it into something very productive," said Lipscomb, who has led negotiations with Bass Pro for the last five years.

The company hopes to open the store by November 2011, although Lipscomb suspects that date would "be a stretch."

It is also uncertain whether the 55-year lease would allow either side to end participation early. City officials promised to divulge what "out clauses" the lease might contain, then failed to do so. The Springfield, Mo.-based retailer plans to turn the unused Pyramid into one of its signature destination stores to draw visitors from across the Mid-South, it was reported. "This is an ideal location for one of our regional destination stores," said Bass Pro president Jim Hagale, adding that Ducks Unlimited would partner with the company on a waterfowl exhibit. "It's an iconic building and this is a region that is rich and strong in its outdoor activities and history. I think this is a very unique and special opportunity for us. You will get something very special."

The city's $30 million investment will come from sales tax money received through the Tourist Development Zone, which allocates increased collections of tax revenue from businesses within the zone to specific public-use facilities, such as the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

Lipscomb emphasized that none of that $30 million will come from the city budget.

While Bass Pro transforms The Pyramid, the newspaper said Memphis-based Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers has been recruited to revive the historic Pinch District adjacent to the arena.

"We think that this redevelopment, from the river to St. Jude (Children's Research Hospital), is the last remaining ... important piece to redevelop the entire Downtown area," Hagale told the newspaper.

The Commercial Appeal said an analysis of publicly subsidized Bass Pro Shops projects around the nation concluded that the promised jobs, increased tax revenue and economic development often fail to occur.

The report by the Public Accountability Initiative found that Bass Pro Shops stores succeed in attracting shoppers, but often don't create economic benefits related to major tourist destinations, the newspaper said.

City officials and Bass Pro executives strongly refuted the report, and the leader of the Pyramid Reuse Committee that recommended Bass Pro for the site five years ago told the newspaper that the retailer was still the best option for The Pyramid.

"We unanimously approved Bass Pro and there was never a financially viable plan B," said Scott Ledbetter, who led the committee. "This will be the only adaptive reuse of an arena in the United States that is commercially viable."

February 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Memphis, Tenn. - Redevelopment of The Pyramid as a Bass Pro Shops superstore is in "serious" jeopardy, Mayor A. C. Wharton told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, because of the company's concerns about seismic issues at the empty arena and a state edict to adhere to tougher building codes.

"It's serious but it is by no means insurmountable," Wharton said after an update on the project during the Memphis City Council's executive session. The Pyramid was the city's main arena until it was replaced by the FedEx Forum. The distinctive building sites along the city's waterfront.

Since Bass Pro Shops began talking to the city about The Pyramid in 2005, the company has expressed concerns about the seismic stability of the structure. Experts recently determined that the land beneath the arena could be subject to liquefaction - when solid ground becomes more like quicksand - in the event of an earthquake.

In January, Bass Pro Shops and seismic experts said a much more detailed test of a scale model of The Pyramid was needed to determine if the building could survive an earthquake or if potentially costly retrofitting was needed.

"If, after this process, we conclude that the seismic cost is prohibitive, we will work with you to consider the alternatives for a distinctive destination retail store in Downtown Memphis," Wharton said in a Jan. 31 letter to Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.

Bass Pro Shops has proposed paying half the estimated $100,000 to $150,000 cost of the new seismic study, which will take eight to 12 weeks to complete. The study will help determine how much it will cost to retrofit the arena.

"I think once we get that cost back, we have to say 'What are we willing to pay for this?'" Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb said.

Last year, the city and Bass Pro Shops signed a lease for the Springfield, Mo.-based retailer to occupy a redeveloped Pyramid for an initial period of 20 years, with seven five-year renewals, for a possible total of 55 years.

The city has committed to providing Bass Pro Shops with $63 million to help make the redevelopment plan possible. The total cost to the city for The Pyramid and a plan to redevelop the nearby Pinch District is about $90 million.

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General Motors Place
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Memphis Pyramid
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