Senior editor John Branston and I were discussing this week's cover story in my office last week. As we looked over the artist's renderings of the proposed Bass Pro plans for the Pyramid, we marveled at the ambitious three-level layout, with its gator- and gar-filled swamp, underwater walkways, aviary, kayak run, snake pit, boat dock, tons of retail space for clothes, hunting and fishing supplies, and outdoor gear, and all the other gee-whiz features.
"It's a man cave," Branston finally exclaimed.
He nailed it. It is a man cave — possibly, as the story's headline suggests, the world's largest. If nothing else, the plans, which also include a massive makeover of the nearby Pinch District, should dispel naysayers' descriptions of the project as a "bait shop."
Even so, the announcement of the deal will no doubt open a can of worms. Or three. This is urban retrofitting on a major scale, one that will thoroughly transform the makeup of the north end of downtown, with the demolition of the iconic — but ugly — Lone Star cement company's towers and a new entrance ramp onto the I-40 bridge. Not to mention the construction of the lavishly landscaped "Bass Pro Boulevard," which will connect the Pyramid to the Tennessee Welcome Center on Riverside Drive.
I don't have a man cave (though my wife does let me build fires in the fireplace and I get to watch Grizzlies games while commercials are on during The Good Wife). But I do love fishing and canoeing and camping, and I think I look pretty cool when I wear my camo pants to go to Schnucks. I'm not a typical prospective Bass Pro customer, but I've gone from a fairly cynical attitude about the deal to a what-the-heck-let's-give-a-shot position.
A short drive around the north end makes it clear that something needs to be done to reinvigorate the area. When the Pyramid was home to Tiger basketball, concerts, truck-pulls, etc., the Pinch was a nice counterpoint to Beale Street on the south end of downtown. We either need to fill that empty, pointy building that anchors our skyline or tear it down. The Bass Pro option seems the best way to go. And you can't fault the city for not thinking big.
If the deal does go through, it will provide construction jobs for at least two years. And thereafter, if things go according to plan, we'll see a major influx of tourists and shoppers.
It's time to fish or cut bait. I say we fish.
There's a classic Jerry Seinfeld routine where he riffs on Bozo the Clown. "What's with Bozo the Clown?" he asks. "I mean, is 'the clown' really necessary? It's not like there's going to be a Bozo the Optometrist. If your name is Bozo, your career path is pretty well set. You're a clown" ...