The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau this week rejected a request to help fund a proposed $262,000 expansion of the Elvis Presley Museum. Board members were asked to contribute $50,000 to the project but declined because they have not seen the Foundation's operating budget. If they see a budget, they might reconsider, said board member Everett Kinsey.
"We would look at it, but we already spend about $70,000 a year on the birthplace," he said. "We buy billboards for them and do other things."
Headed by the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation, the expansion would turn the small collection of Elvis memorabilia housed at the Elvis Presley Birthplace into a "world-class museum." Work would conclude in December and attendance at the attraction would then be expected to double from its current yearly count of 50,000 tourists, according to the written request sent by Foundation chairman Henry Dodge to the CVB.
When contacted by the Daily Journal, Dodge declined to disclose any details about the project, saying he will make an official announcement during the Aug. 8 Fan Appreciation Day at the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum. Although the CVB turned down its funding proposal, the Foundation could still obtain money from the city. Dodge has requested $100,000 from city coffers and is expected to make his case for an allocation during the city's Aug. 15 public hearing on the budget, said chief financial officer Daphne Holcombe.
Council members, who have all received a copy of the request, will determine after that point whether to contribute to the project - and if so, how much, said Mayor Ed Neelly.
"We've always been very supportive of the museum because it's such a major tourist attraction," Neelly said. "We will give it our full consideration."
The Foundation is offering $100,000 of its own money toward the expansion and will raise the remaining $12,400 through "internally generated funds." Dodge did not say whether the Foundation had an alternate plan in the event the city does not fund the expansion. If the project succeeds and doubles attendance to the museum, Dodge estimated Tupelo would receive an extra $3.6 million annually in tourist dollars. Of that, he calculated that $72,000 would go to the CVB from the county-wide 2 percent tourism tax, $46,000 would go to city coffers through the state's 7 percent sales tax, and $9,000 would go to the water district through its .25 percent tax. The total annual economic impact to those entities would be $127,000.