The Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo has unveiled a proposed theater and other improvements in a master plan to double the number of Elvis tourists to 100,000 a year. "We want to add some things that will continue to encourage people to come and see a part of the young Elvis," said Dick Guyton, executive director of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation. The 15-acre site in East Tupelo now has the birthplace, museum, memorial chapel and the old church where the Presleys worshipped before they moved to Memphis. The master plan, which would cost about $5 million to carry out, will create the theater and several other activities.
The idea is to offer enough to do not only to draw more Elvis fans, but to encourage more tourists to spend the night and eat in Tupelo restaurants, Guyton said. "We got a number of things to keep fans busy, but when you get a large crowd you have a lot of wait time," he said. The master plan conceived by Memphis-based Design 500 Inc. features: A 100-seat theater with a small stage. Movies and documentaries could be played there. "So when you get a bus of 50 people who come in, they may want to spend 15 minutes in the theater before they go to the house, church and museum," Guyton said. European tour companies have told birthplace officials that if they know in advance about a special event in the theater, they might book a tour to spend the night in Tupelo, he said. An amphitheater on the back side of the property, where a natural incline exists. "We could seat people on the hillside and have gospel singings," Guyton said. Improvements to the overlook on top of the ridge where the RCA Monument sits. It's said that is where Elvis would go to sit alone and dream, Guyton said. Plans are to add walking trails with story stations; And improved traffic flow and more parking. The foundation receives funding from private sources such as local industries, and from the local convention and visitors bureau and the Mississippi tourism sources. The new facilities could be built in 24 to 36 months, depending on the funding, Guyton said. He praised the design work of Design 500 Inc, a museum planning firm.
This is the third project Design 500 has done for the birthplace. Led by creative director and owner Scott Blake, Design 500 also planned an upgrade to the birthplace museum in 2007 and the restoration and display of the old church. It was moved a short way to the birthplace grounds and opened in 2008. "Our mission is to reveal the early Elvis in a manner that is world class while remaining true to his simple and honest ways," Henry Dodge, foundation president, said in a prepared statement.