Westgate Resorts is blaming a "heavyhanded move" for the hotel's ownership's decision to step in and close the doors of the Elvis exhibit 10 months into a 10-year contract.
Mark Waltrip, chief operating officer of Westgate Las Vegas, said the move was "a protective action" after the tenant notified the hotel ownership in mid-week about plans to shutter "Graceland presents: Elvis the Exhibition."
The dispute is with the tenant, a licensee of Graceland, the Elvis estate, said Waltrip. "They owe us quite a substantial amount of money for the improvements we made on the space," said Waltrip. "Unfortunately they took a heavyhanded move. They were threatening to default so we had to close the premises and protect the asset."
He said Westgate closed the 28,000-square foot exhibit so "we could secure the contents until we can sort this out." When it opened last April, a Graceland executive said the exhibit had about 350 pieces from the Graceland collection. The licensee's action came during the same week that it was learned the Westgate has received permission to change Riviera Boulevard to Elvis Presley Boulevard.
It got ugly fast. Waltrip said the licensee (EPE) "notified the county and told them they don't want the street names after Elvis. We're very saddened this particular group has taken such a capricious and possibly damaging action. They thought they would hurt us. But it's more damaging to the legion of Elvis fans. Meantime," said Waltrip, "everything is safe, locked and we'll wait until we hear from the estate."
The hotel played a pivotal role in Presley's career when he launched his comeback in July 1969 at what was known as The International.
In the process, he energized Las Vegas with his eight years of sellouts over more than 600 shows. The International later became the Hilton Las Vegas and LVH before timeshare king David Siegel purchased the 30-story, 3,261-room property in June 2014.
It's the latest hit to Presley's legacy. Ten years ago the Elvis-A-Rama museum closed and, in a shocker, Cirque du Soleil closed "Viva Elvis" in late 2012, well short of its third anniversary. It was the first Cirque show to fail in Las Vegas since "Mystere" opened in 1993.