Another Wild Ride 

While the city waits on Bass Pro, the Ericson Group asks council to approve "Pyramid Harbor" project.

The Ericson Group isn't waiting for time to run out on Bass Pro Shop's proposal for The Pyramid.

Last week, the Memphis-based group, led by Greg Ericson, presented its plan for an indoor theme park in The Pyramid to the City Council. Ericson unveiled the plan to the Shelby County Commission last December.

Bass Pro has until January 31st to finalize a deal with the city and county for a retail location in The Pyramid. At the time of this writing, members of the City Council and County Commission were visiting Bass Pro's headquarters in Springfield, Missouri.

Ericson's plan would also renovate Mud Island Harbor and add more than 75 retailers and restaurants and two 350-room hotels near The Pyramid.

Orlando-based Prosperity International would provide capital for the project, which Ericson said he could start building as soon as he receives approval from the city and county. The entire project is estimated to cost Ericson $300 million with $250 million coming from private funds. The remaining $50 million would come from the federal government, which Ericson said, will also be responsible for moving the downtown I-40 ramp if the project is approved.

Ericson estimates that the ambitious project would attract more than two million visitors a year to Memphis, but City Council members were unsure that the project fits the city's current agenda.

"I applaud your vision," council member Reid Hedgepeth told Ericson, "but there's been some sort of cursed land for The Pyramid. This is a move that the city has seen before."

Hedgepeth was referring to previous Mud Island Harbor takeover proposals, where developers announced similar ambitious projects but ended up falling out.

The City Council is looking for someone to take over The Pyramid, not Mud Island.

"This is going beyond redeveloping The Pyramid," Councilman Jim Strickland said. "I realized then all 13 council members were going to have questions."

According to his colleague, Shea Flinn, the project's scope, along with the two-year-long negotiation with Bass Pro, are two of the reasons that Ericson's plan is appreciated but not fully embraced.

"The vision is a wonderful thing," Flinn said. "Obviously, there's a lot of blue sky that can be seen from this, but it's always rosy when you're painting the best-case scenario."

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