Politics » Politics Feature

GADFLY: Pyramid Scheme


I know I'm probably late to this dance, but am I the only one hearing alarm bells over the serenade being sung by an out-of-town enterprise promising to make Memphis the tourism capital of the world by resuscitating that hole in the ground we call the Pyramid?

Bass Pro Shop chain is promising to turn the Pyramid into a Super Wal Mart on steroids for the “outdoors” (read: gun-rack-equipped, pick-'em-up-truck-driving) set. How rich is it that the building they're promising to make as popular as its namesake in Giza was itself originally the result of a Music Man-like scam which, among other things, saw the building built in a 10 story hole in the ground instead of on the bluff where it belonged, and promises of an “inclinator” and an observation deck on the top disappeared like so much fairy dust.

Can you say (or even remember) Sydney Shlenker? He must be guffawing in his grave at this proposal. And speaking of graves, maybe this latest plan for the reincarnation of our Pyramid is appropriate, given that pyramids are, basically, burial grounds. How better to bury the original intent and purpose for this landmark than making it a monument to blue collar consumption.

I probably don't need to remind you that Memphis has a history of being the bridesmaid and never the bride, of settling for what it can get rather than holding out for what it needs or deserves. We lost out to Cleveland (you know, the city on the banks of the river that caught fire) for the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, only to get the consolation prize of a mini-music museum tucked as an afterthought into the Gibson guitar factory, itself a satellite of its main facility.

We lost out to Nashville for an NFL franchise, even though as the bridesmaid we did at least get to sleep with the groom for a couple years before that marriage was consummated. And now, apparently, we're going to allow a store named for a fish take over our most visible landmark.

It's like St. Louis allowing McDonald's to paint the arch orange and project a holographic image of Ronald McDonald on its side.

Now we're being told that the facility which was built as a multi-functional sports, cultural and entertainment center can do no better than becoming a mall for the NASCAR crowd. And how are the powers-that-be putting lipstick on this pig? Why of course by touting the tourism potential of this commercial endeavor, telling us that folks will come from miles around to shop in the Pyramid. If they really wanted to make the Pyramid a shopping Mecca, they would have put a big-time (no, not like the one in Lakeland) factory-outlet complex in there, like the one that has  so successfully turned Chattanooga into a tourist hub.

Even though I have to admit there is some demographic synergy between the patrons of Graceland and the potential patrons of a tricked out bait shop, who do you suppose does more shopping, folks looking to buy waders and portable duck blinds, or the ones looking to buy Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger duds?

I know it was too much to expect the holy rollers ever to permit casino gambling to take place in Memphis, one of the original proposals for adaptively reusing the Pyramid. Why would the same folks who legislate against beer sales on Sunday mornings (because they're afraid beer would beat out church in a head-to-head competition) ever allow Memphis to become another sin city? They'd rather allow that role to be outsourced to Mississippi.

Hunting and fishing are, I will admit, probably more reputable activities than gambling (unless you belong to PETA), but then again you're not as likely to be “peppered” with gambling chips as you are by wayward shotgun pellets.

Someday this city's leaders will stop selling the city short by being willing targets for the bills of goods that so many vendors of pipe dreams see them as being susceptible to buying. In the meantime, I'm going to see if the city would be interested in turning the Mid-South Coliseum into a gigantic Pets 'R Us.

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