Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Council Hooked on Bass Pro

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 3:44 PM

How much did the city council like what it heard about the possibly imminent marriage of the Pyramid and Bass Pro Shops?

So much that members gave point man Robert Lipscomb a round of applause.

So much that members didn't make any snarky comments about bait shops or the Bass Pro logo.

So much that Councilman Joe Brown praised Jeff Sanford of the Center City Commission for "guts, testicles, and balls" in a recent speech about the state of downtown.

Interim mayor Myron Lowery got things started Tuesday by proclaiming, "It's a good day in Memphis." He said a recent meeting in Missouri with Bass Pro bigwigs and Jack Sammons and Reid Hedgepeth went well enough that only some details remain to be worked out — as if Memphis has not heard that one before. Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris has been in Memphis three times in the last 90 days, council members were told.

Jim Hagale, Bass Pro's liason with Lipscomb and other Memphis Pyramid promoters, couldn't make it because of bad weather but did participate by conference call. He admitted there were times when Bass Pro was "disillusioned" over the past four years, but "recently I have felt more comfortable and confident."

He said there's still a need for "clarity" on some funding issues but "I feel that we can get this done."

The theme would be a "conservation celebration" and a destination retail store much bigger and more ambitious than the current one in East Memphis which, he said, does "phenomenal." Hagale called Morris "the modern-day Teddy Roosevelt."

Lipscomb did a short presentation of plans for the surrounding area including The Pinch, Uptown, and an expanded St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The Bass Pro deal, he said, would not cost taxpayers any money and would be financed with $30 million tourism development zone funds and $20 million from other sources. He hopes to have a final design presentation by December.

One rendering of the Pyramid showed a video screen instead of the controversial Bass Pro logo. Councilman Jim Strickland did not like the video idea, which he likened to an electronic billboard. Councilman Barbara Swearengen Ware did like it. Another possible change is adding solar panels to the Pyramid.

The mood of good will expanded to the pending makeovers of Shelby Farms, Graceland, and the Fairgrounds. That prompted Brown to speak about the importance of innovation to insuring the future greatness of Memphis and to make his weird praise of Sanford, made even more weird by his alluding to the fact that Sanford is white. Veteran council observers — that means me — could not recall the word "testicles" being used previously in a council meeting. As Lowery said, it was a good day.

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