Tourists flock from around the world to see the King of Rock 'n' Roll’s birthplace, and with a $4.3 million expansion wrapped up at the Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum, the experience is even bigger and better.
As part of the expansion's first phase, the site added a 120-seat theater and an outdoor amphitheater that can hold 75 people. These two elements allow for more live entertaining as well as video and other theatrical productions. This phase also increased onsite parking by three times, and covered areas at the birthplace site grew from 6,000 feet to approximately 16,000 feet.
“As our fan base grows, we expect to see more people,” says Dick Guyton, executive director. “Graceland is increasing their coverage, and if they see more people then we will as well.”
A $2.8 million state tourism bond bill plus funds from the city of Tupelo, the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation made the expansion possible.
The project, completed in time to honor the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ death in August 2012, is expected to double the visitors to the birthplace site. In 2011, approximately 40,000 people came to Tupelo specifically to see it, according to the visitors bureau. Tourism officials hope that with more to see, these visitors will stay in town longer, patronize local restaurants and nightclubs and stay overnight at area hotels.
“Our state and local elected and tourism officials, and our business community, believe in tourism and they support it,” Guyton says. “We are the No. 1 tourism attraction in the state. We are working on becoming a destination in our own right, rather than just a visiting point.”
Fundraising is underway for the second phase, which will include a larger, 700-800 seat amphitheater, as well as Becoming, a new sculpture that will include likenesses of Elvis at young and older ages.
Other improvements include a covered pavilion at the overlook, which will share stories about Elvis’ childhood as told by his friends in the city, and a picnic area near Elvis Presley Lake.
All the new spaces are available for public rentals and will be used by the city of Tupelo for special events, as well. A $65 annual pass allows residents to bring as many as five people on six different occasions to visit the birthplace - a great deal for those who frequently entertain out-of-town guests.
“One reason behind our expansion is the community,” Guyton says. “The fans are important to us, but the people who live here are, too. Elvis was always giving back, and we feel like we can do that too. These new facilities will be available for almost anything that a church, or civic group, or family would be want to do.”
Find out more on Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo.