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The Pyramid Arena, initially known as the Great American Pyramid[4] was originally built as a 20,142-seat arena located in downtown Memphis at the banks of the Mississippi River. The facility was built in 1991 and was originally owned and operated jointly by the city of Memphis and Shelby County; Shelby County sold its share to Memphis in April 2009.[5] Its unique structure plays on the city's namesake in Ancient Egypt, known for its ancient pyramids. It is 321 feet (98m, about 32 stories) tall and has base sides of 591 ft; it is by some measures the sixth largest pyramid in the world behind the Great Pyramid of Giza (456 ft), Khafre's Pyramid (448 ft), Luxor Hotel (348 ft), the Red Pyramid (341 ft), and the Bent Pyramid (332 ft). It is also slightly (about 16 feet) taller than the Statue of Liberty. A statue of Ramesses the Great stood in front of the pyramid, which was created from a mold of the actual statue in Egypt. In 2011, this statue was leased to the University of Memphis for the cost of $1 and was moved to the campus in April 2012.

The Pyramid Arena has not been regularly used as a sports venue since 2004. The facility is currently being converted into a Bass Pro Shops "megastore."


The "Great American Pyramid" was conceived by John Tigrett as a symbol for the city of Memphis. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 15, 1989 and the building was opened on November 9, 1991. The project along with construction of the building was managed by Sidney Shlenker. Originally, there were several plans to have various attractions at the Pyramid site, including a shortwave radio station broadcasting Memphis music, an observation deck with an inclinator along the side of the building, and a theme park on Mud Island along with other things. However, the plans were scrapped due to Shlenker's financial difficulties. Later on he was investigated by the FBI for fraud.

Various former uses and events[]

It was the home court for the University of Memphis men's basketball program, and later for the National Basketball Association's Memphis Grizzlies. However, both teams left The Pyramid in November 2004 to move into the newly built FedExForum.

The arena hosted the 1993 Great Midwest Conference Men's and Women's basketball tournaments, the 1994 and 1997 Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament, the 1996 and 2000 Conference USA men's basketball tournament, and the 2003 Conference USA women's basketball tournament. It also held the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in 1995, 1997, and 2001.

The Pyramid was the site of the WWF St. Valentine's Day Massacre: In Your House pay-per-view, in 1999.

It also hosted the boxing mega-fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson in 2002, which Lewis won by a knockout in the eighth round.

Filmmaker Craig Brewer used the building as a sound stage for his film Black Snake Moan in late 2005.[6]

From 2002 to 2006, the annual Church of God in Christ international holy convocations were held here.

The arena has hosted many concerts, by famous artists of many different genres.

In 2002, the arena hosted a concert, commemorating the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band performed what is reputed to be the last concert ever in the Pyramid, on February 3, 2007.

Troubles and Closure[]

Ever since its inception there have been problems at the Pyramid. On the Pyramid's opening night someone shut drainage pumps off and by the time it was realized, the entire arena began to flood causing stage-hands to sandbag the entire parameter to preserve the electrics which ran under the stage. This also caused plumbing problems and was considered a disaster. The arena was also assumed to be NBA ready. However, when the Memphis Grizzlies came to town, this was discovered not to be the case. The cost of upgrading the structure to NBA standards exceeded the cost of a new stadium. Hence the FedExForum was built and opened in 2004.

When the Forum overtook the Pyramid as the city's primary indoor sports arena, the Pyramid did not have any long term tenants. A committee studied possible uses of the arena in 2005, and considered such uses as converting the arena into a casino, an aquarium, a shopping center, or an indoor theme park.[7] In November 2006, Congressman-Elect Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) suggested that he would attempt to open a "Mid-American branch" of the Smithsonian Institution in the building. However, none of these plans were ever realized.

Bass Pro Shops[]

In October 2005, media speculation began to focus on an aquarium or a Bass Pro Shops superstore as the most likely long-term tenants of the arena. In 2008, the city and Bass Pro Shops reached a "tentative" agreement, short on details, but based on an intent to develop the now-abandoned structure.[8] On June 30, after 5 years of negotiating, Bass Pro and the City of Memphis signed an agreement for a 55-year lease which would create the main store, additional retail stores, restaurants, offices, and a river museum. In addition, the redevelopment plans include revitalizing the Pinch District, which is the neighborhood around the Pyramid. The city would invest $30 million to help with the seismic retrofitting of the structure which would be funded by future sales tax revenue in the surrounding area. Bass Pro plans to begin renovations and construction in October 2012 with hopes to open its store on August 1, 2013.[9] In mid-2012, Bass Pro Shops released plans of what was to come in the Pyramid. These plans include an elevator (possibly glass, allowing occupants a stunning view of the store as they travel up) that would allow visitors to take a trip to the very top of the Pyramid, where a restaurant and an observation deck are planned. Speculations also note that a zipline may be installed to let visitors zip from one end of the Pyramid to the other.


External links[]

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Memphis Grizzlies

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FedExForum |- |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Mid-South Coliseum |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Home of
Memphis Tigers basketball

1991 – 2004 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
FedExForum |- |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
first arena |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Home of
Memphis Pharaohs

1995 - 1996 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
BancorpSouth Arena |- |}

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