By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The theater marquee was installed Tuesday at the Elvis Presley Birthplace, marking another step toward the Aug. 9 grand opening.
The theater area is closed to the public due to construction, but it visible from inside the gift shop. Scott Blake of Memphis-based Design 500 Inc. designed the marquee.
“I kind of looked at the Lyric and got some ideas from that marquee,” Blake said.
The Lyric is the downtown Tupelo theater where Elvis supposedly had his first kiss. The new marquee at the birthplace is fashioned in an Art Deco style and features a neon blue “EP.” Frank Balton Signs of Memphis built it.
The headlines on the front of it will change, based on what’s happening inside the theater.
The first headline?
“Elvis played here first,” Blake said.
The 120-seat theater is part of a $4.3 million expansion that adds event space, a snack area, a conference room, a bigger gift shop, bathrooms, more parking, picnic areas and a 75-seat outdoor amphitheater.
When it’s all done, the covered area of the birthplace will go from about 6,000 square feet to 16,000, according to Executive Director Dick Guyton.
The theater will be unveiled to the public Aug. 9 at Tupelo’s Elvis Fan Day.
The goal of the expansion is to double the visitor count to the birthplace during the next five years.
Plus, officials hope to convert the tourists to overnight visitors.
The project is partially funded by a $2.8 million tourism bond bill approved by the state in 2010. The bill required a 20 percent local match, which was provided by the city of Tupelo ($310,000), the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau ($150,000) and the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation ($100,000).
The Tupelo CVB board last year gave another $100,000 to the total project.
The birthplace hopes to raise another $2 million to build a 700-seat amphitheater and overlook interpretive trail.