Johnny Morris on Pyramid and Bass Pro

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Johnny Morris looks and talks like a regular guy you might see shopping at Bass Pro Shops. And the pyramid will look very different both inside and out when Bass Pro opens in it in October of 2013.

Morris, the founder of the hunting and fishing retailer, met with local politicians and members of the media inside the pyramid Thursday. He praised Mayor A C Wharton, the City Council and County Commission, and Robert Lipscomb for their help in a project that began some seven years ago as a wild idea to fill a big empty building.

As pro fisherman Bill Dance told it, Morris asked him, "Should we put a Bass Pro in the Pyramid?"

"Are y'all crazy?" Dance replied.

After thinking about it for a few days, Dance still could not quite commit.

"I was as nervous as a cricket swimmin' across a bluegill bed," Dance said.

The deal was sealed, the course was set, and a legend was born on a fishing trip when they agreed that if one of them caught a catfish weighing at least 30 pounds, Bass Pro in Memphis was a go.

FISH ON!

Johnny Morris
Accompanied by bursts of fire into a Bass Pro hot-air balloon — no wisecracks, readers — Dance and Wharton did most of the hype in the half-hour ceremony inside the pyramid, which will feature a swamp, a 210-room hotel, restaurants, bowling, and of course a retail store in a couple of years.

"It's going to be one of the biggest tourist attractions Memphis has ever seen," said Dance.

The low-key Morris patiently answered questions, bowled one ball (knocking down four pins), then moved over to a table where he huddled with architects and partners over some blueprints. He has apparently been visiting Memphis unannounced several times a month for the last year. He envisions not only a hotel but also an R.V. campground, launch ramps, and connecting features to the harbor and river.

"It's a big sheet of paper to work with," Morris said.

As for an observation deck, "That hasn't been worked out yet."

The store and restaurants are scheduled to open in October of 2013, with the hotel to follow some months later. Asked what he would like to see on the other side of Front Street in the Pinch District, Morris said more retail "could be good" and he would not see it as competition.

One of the biggest changes unveiled Thursday was a new look for the exterior of the pyramid that adds a band of glass midway up the four sides under the Bass Pro signs.

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