The Pyramid in downtown Memphis has been a focal point of the city's skyline since 1991. Through its history as a controversial architectural undertaking, an entertainment arena, a vacant dilemma for the City of Memphis, and a spectacular retail attraction, it has served many roles.
The Pyramid was originally an events arena and the home of the city’s NBA team, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the University of Memphis men’s basketball team. Nationally touring musical acts like Mary J. Blige, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Hank Williams, Jr., Eric Clapton, and Garth Brooks performed there in its heyday.
Other events like the World Wrestling Federation’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre pay-per-view and the Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson fight in 2002 also took place at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, along with several basketball conference tournaments.
After the opening of FedExForum in 2004, the Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis men’s basketball team moved their home court to the new arena. Musical acts and other events followed suit, leaving the Pyramid arena in Memphis essentially vacant until 2015.
In 2009 Shelby County sold its shares of the building to the City of Memphis. The City then began negotiations with Bass Pro Shops to renovate the Pyramid under a 20-year lease. Construction began in 2012.
In late April 2015, Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid celebrated its grand opening. It's no longer a Pyramid arena, it's now transformed into an eye-catching retail location and visitor destination. Features include two floors of outdoor gear and retail, more than half a million gallons of water features, 100-foot-tall cypress trees, live alligators and fish, a museum, a bowling alley, two restaurants, two glass-floored observation decks, and a 28-story glass elevator to the top.
The Pyramid now also contains Big Cypress Lodge, a wilderness-themed 103-room luxury hotel and event center. Most of the rooms have the feel of a log cabin - albeit with all the best amenities - and include a screened in “porch” that provides guests with a view of the store’s swamp-like interior.
As of July 2015, Bass Pro and the Commercial Appeal reported that the building had welcomed 1 million visitors in just about two months. They also sold 12 tons of fudge, which is handmade on site and comes in dozens of flavors.
Here are some interesting facts about the Pyramid building itself -- some well-known and others that may come as a surprise.
- The Pyramid has been known as "The Great American Pyramid", “The Pyramid Arena”, and now, “Bass Pro Shops At The Pyramid”
- The Pyramid is 321 feet tall, or 32 stories -- the third largest pyramid in the world.
- The Memphis, Tennessee pyramid is a 60 percent replica of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt.
- Until 2012, a 25 foot statue of Ramesses II stood guard at the Pyramid's entrance. The statue is now located on the University of Memphis campus.
- The Pyramid's exterior is clad in stainless steel.
- Bass Pro’s glass elevator is the nation’s tallest freestanding elevator.
Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid is located at 1 Bass Pro Drive (formerly known as 1 Auction Avenue) in downtown Memphis.
Updated July 2016 and August 2017 by Holly Whitfield