Keeping It Real 

Rightly or wrongly, numerous people in Memphis and Shelby County, including what seems to be a growing number of City Council members and county commissioners, have developed a mistrust (or perhaps "healthy skepticism" is a better phrase) toward the intentions of the Bass Pro Shop company concerning The Pyramid.

Maybe the current "development agreement" signed by Bass Pro will lead to something and maybe not. There's no guarantee. And, as it happens, there's another suitor, local entrepreneur Greg Ericson, who makes much of his pledge to buy the costly white elephant down on the river rather than merely, maybe, leasing it, as his more established competitor indicates it just might do. Someday.

Aside from legitimate questions, some of them still unanswered, about the solvency and expertise and willingness to commit ready cash of the groups that Ericson has put together, the local guy seems to have evinced more plain old bona fides than Bass Pro, whose long-term coyness would have put Andrew Marvell's famously reluctant mistress to shame. At some point, metaphors concerning wedlock began to predominate in the minds of the council and commission members who met jointly with Ericson last week for an in-depth presentation and conversation.

Councilman Jim Strickland was the first to use the analogy of marriage — both as a test of Ericson's (and Bass Pro's) seriousness and as a trope for the depth of commitment required of a successful suitor for The Pyramid. Seconds later, Councilman Harold Collins agreed. Likening Ericson to someone come "courting," Collins put it bluntly: "Where's the ring? And then we'll marry."

Ultimately, though he did not use the term, Commissioner Mike Ritz settled on a request for details concerning the dowry — a guarantee (sought from both parties) of immediate developmental cash plus a solid timetable for moving forward, plus reliably refereed long-term assurances about finances. Then and only then, after such an "apples-to-apples" comparison, could the city and county "choose the project we like best."

Inasmuch as Ericson claimed on behalf of his partners that "we're ready to start right now," he has a real opportunity to make good his claim. At the very least, he was able to extract from Robert Lipscomb, the city's liaison for Pyramid proposals and a long-term proponent for coming to terms with Bass Pro, the statement that "we've got two good deals." There was general concurrence from both city and county principals after last week's marathon three-hour meeting that Ericson may finally have gained parity of treatment.

And, what is opportunity for Greg Ericson is incentive for Bass Pro. Commissioner Steve Mulroy, an out-and-out advocate of the theme proposal, called for a quick resolution of the Pyramid issue. Said Mulroy: "I don't think Bass Pro are into us. Even now, we're in limboland, while they're doing 'feasibility studies.' Every month, hundreds of thousands in debt service. Let's get on with it."

We would agree. It is time for everyone concerned to keep it real concerning long-term use of The Pyramid. Where, indeed, is the ring, and who has it?


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