Church Looks At Pyramid

Memphis, Tenn., officials have had tentative plans to convert the unused Pyramid arena into a Bass Pro complex but, as talks drag on, a local church is offering an alternative.

The city and county, which still owe more than $8 million on the building, have been talking for more than two years with Bass Pro Shops about turning the 19,500-capacity arena into a Bass Pro sporting store attraction that would feature a restaurant, aquarium, waterfall and possible hotel and museum. It was tentatively scheduled to open this year.

The Ericson Group presented in December a $100 million project called Pyramid Adventure that would include a hotel, restaurant, open air mall, museum and 15,000-seat amphitheatre. The venue would be converted into an indoor theme park.

Now, the Cummings Street Missionary Baptist Church, with a 5,000-member congregation, is offering $12 million for the Pyramid.

"Every time we’ve occupied a space, we’ve filled it," Pastor Gary Faulkner said.

The county’s chief administrator officer, Jim Huntzicker, said the church’s interest appears genuine.

"We want to get a solid commitment from Bass Pro by the end of [July]," Huntzicker said. "If we don’t, we will recommend to the [city council and county commission] that they open up the process. The church would be one of those we could consider."

The Commercial Appeal agreed, saying in an editorial that the city should consider the offer, if for no other reason than it could spur Bass Pro Shops into a decision.

The Pyramid has struggled since the FedExForum’s 2004 debut when former Pyramid tenants the Memphis Grizzlies moved to the new building. The Pyramid had its final concert with Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band February 3, 2007.

It opened in 1991 at a cost of $65 million, but it never lived up to financial expectations.