EDITORIAL: Elvis opportunity

By NEMS Daily Journal

The approval of a $2.8 million state bond issue to help the Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo and its governing foundation expand and improve the site and facilities on Elvis Presley Drive opens a way for the attraction to become a more comprehensive and overnight attraction.
Birthplace executive director Dick Guyton said on Wednesday the total master plan development cost would be about $5.3 million – the $2.8 million bond issue, $560,000 in matching funds, and possibly support from the foundation’s own resources.
Guyton said the full plans would extend the capability of the birthplace, museum and chapel to encompass a small theater, an outdoor amphitheater seating 1,000 or more, interior space for wedding receptions and similar events, exhibit space for archival material, and storage areas.
The upgrade, Guyton believes, would substantially empower the birthplace – which focuses on the boyhood in Tupelo of the universally known “King of Rock-’n’-Roll” – to become an overnight destination for tourists from around the world.
The expansion and its added capacity would enable to the birthplace to offer nighttime entertainment, an element it lacks but which has been requested by tourism professionals from Europe and the United States who set up motor coach package tours including the birthplace.
Guyton said the plans also include a small cafe on site, which is not available in the existing layout. Guyton also said land is not an issue because the birthplace foundation owns 11 acres.
Described in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture as “probably the most famous southerner of the 20th century,” Presley never abandoned his Tupelo roots, staying in touch with a large extended family and friends he had known in childhood until junior high school.
His first guitar was purchased at Tupelo Hardware, the instrumental beginning of a career that changed popular music and culture.
Guyton said the emphasis on Presley’s childhood gives the Tupelo birthplace a distinction no other Presley site can claim, but he did not rule out the possibility of having a larger role for the adulthood success, including Presley impersonators.
Guyton sees the on-site entertainment events of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola as a model from which the Presley birthplace can benefit. The $13 million King center in Indianola had state funding, and Indianola raised $2 million in matching funds.
If the birthplace can expand its offerings, people will have more reasons for both first visits and return visits. The King center has eight major events scheduled in the next two months; thousands will attend.
Tupelo has a similar opportunity.