The Pinch/Bass Pro Shops

Rendering Courtesy Bass Pro Shops

Why It Matters:

Converting the vacant Pyramid arena downtown into a Bass Pro Shops superstore is expected to attract 3 million people a year to an area that is now marked by low traffic and little economic activity. Tourist spending is projected to generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, not to mention the more than $1 million in annual rent the city will reap from Bass Pro. “Everywhere there’s a Bass Pro, retail pops up.” — Robert Lipscomb, director, City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development


City of Memphis, Bass Pro Shops, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and Memphis Cook Convention Center, Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, historic Pinch District businesses and restaurants, Uptown Memphis and Harbor Town residents

Leaders and Consultants:

Robert Lipscomb (City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development), Johnny Morris (Bass Pro Shops), and Tom Marshall (OT Marshall Architects)

Area Boundaries:

Mississippi River, A.W. Willis Ave., Poplar Ave., Danny Thomas Blvd.

Area History:

Initially known as the Great American Pyramid and conceived by now-deceased financier John Tigrett, the Pyramid arena opened in November 1991. Originally, city and county governments owned the structure jointly, although the county sold its share to Memphis in 2009. Until 2004 the Pyramid served as home court for the University of Memphis men’s basketball program and the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team. It was found, however, that the Pyramid was not NBA-ready and the cost to retrofit it would exceed that of building a new stadium. So FedExForum was constructed off of Beale Street. Although some events were still held at the Pyramid, the arena was all but dead, hurting the surrounding Pinch District. Use studies began being conducted in 2005, and eventually Bass Pro Shops committed to reinventing the space. 

Current Conditions:

In 2010, the City of Memphis and Bass Pro Shops signed a lease for an initial 20-year rental period with seven five-year renewals possible after that, for a total of 55 years. The Pyramid is in the process of being converted to the superstore and hotel space. Meanwhile, the surrounding Pinch District is anemic. Memphis City Council approved a plan allowing the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. to issue $215 million in tourism development zone bonds to fund not only the Pyramid’s retrofitting but to buy the nearby Lone Star concrete plant and to make improvements to the Memphis Cook Convention Center. A new gateway entrance to the Pinch District is planned as well as a boulevard leading to the Pyramid. The Lone Star operation is relocating to Presidents Island. The bonds will be repaid by taxes generated in the area instead of being disbursed to the state.

Ideal Situation:

Large-scale retail developments in response to Pyramid conversion and a revitalized Memphis Cook Convention Center.

Current Funding Situation:

Memphis City Council approved $215 million in tourism development bonds. More funding needs will be known after a Request for Proposals is issued for Pinch District redevelopment. There’s also talk of increasing the number of rooms at the downtown Marriott Hotel.

Jobs Created:

OT Marshall Architects has been integrally involved in the Pyramid-to-Bass Pro conversion and wider area planning. Montgomery Martin Contractors is overseeing demolition inside the Pyramid. Part of the agreement for Bass Pro to take possession of the Pyramid includes a stipulation requiring 30 percent minority contractor participation. All in all work on the building is estimated to bring more than 16,000 construction jobs. An estimated 600 long-term store jobs will be created. The Pinch District might well get the brunt of collateral benefit and see new businesses and job opportunities as well.

How You Can Help:

Be on the lookout for RFPs if your company might potentially get involved. Also, a demolition party will be scheduled soon for the old Lone Star plant.


Robert Lipscomb, director, City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development, at 576-7300

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