Friday 23 June 2017

Elvis Presley's Graceland estate opens new £36m complex

Priscilla Presley at the grand opening of the Elvis Presley's Memphis complex (AP)
Priscilla Presley at the grand opening of the Elvis Presley's Memphis complex (AP)

Elvis Presley's legacy has received a 45 million dollar (£36 million) boost with the opening of a major new attraction at his Graceland estate - an entertainment complex Priscilla Presley says gives "the full gamut" of the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Nearly four decades after he sang his last tune, about 200 people streamed into Elvis Presley's Memphis after the late singer's wife cut a ribbon and allowed fans to see the complex for the first time.

Resembling an outdoor mall, the 200,000 sq ft campus is across the street from Graceland, Presley's long-time home-turned-museum.

The complex features a comprehensive Presley exhibit with clothing he wore on stage and guitars he played, a showcase of cars he owned, a soundstage, a cinema, two restaurants and retail stores.

"You're getting the full gamut of who Elvis Presley was," his wife said during an interview after the grand opening. "You're getting to see and participate a bit in his life and what he enjoyed and what he loved to collect."

It is part of a 140 million dollar (£114 million) expansion, which also includes a 90 million dollar (£73 million), 450-room hotel that opened last year.

The complex replaces the ageing buildings that have housed Presley-related exhibits for years.

Graceland has been updating its tourist experience in recent years. Visitors now use iPads for self-guided tours of the house, and the new Guest House, with modern amenities like glass-encased showers with wall-mounted body sprays and Keurig coffee makers in rooms, has replaced the crumbling Heartbreak Hotel, which is scheduled for demolition.

"We want to keep updating. If you don't keep up with what's going on in the times, you get left out," Mrs Presley said.

She was joined at the ribbon-cutting by Elvis Presley Enterprises chief executive Jack Soden and Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of Graceland Holdings.

The opening comes just before the 40th anniversary of Presley's death on August 16 1977, at the age of 42.

Adults pay 57.50 dollars (about £47) for a standard tour of the house and access to the complex.

From the ticketing area, people line up for buses that take visitors to the museum, or they can move through the entertainment complex's large, high-ceilinged buildings.

Gladys' Diner - named after the singer's mother - has the feel of a 1950s eatery, complete with pictures of Presley, aqua-coloured chairs and stations where patrons can order hot dogs, burgers and ice cream.

There's also Presley's favourite: Gladys' World Famous Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich, fried in bacon grease. Another PB&B sandwich is cooked in butter.

Across a wide walkway lies the car museum, filled with some of Presley's favourite toys, including a pink 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood - a custom painted model he gave to his mother - and a sleek black 1973 Stutz Blackhawk that he drove the day he died.

AP

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