An Iconic Promise, But Empty Returns

What was meant to be an icon for the city of Memphis has become a burden, as the city's pyramid-shaped sports and concert complex sits vacant and unused. The city is still trying to find a way to reuse it.

"Holy Moses! The Great American Pyramid of Memphis."

"A glorious structure of poured concrete and shiny stainless steel, of form if not function, it rose 321 feet from the sedimentary banks of the Mississippi River, just an ibis's glide from Interstate 40 and the Hernando de Soto Bridge. Nothing quite like this existed anywhere else on the continent, save the exotic metropolis of Vegas."

"A quarter-century ago, the idea of a pyramid arose from the city's desire to provide a larger venue for sporting events and concerts, and to have a structure as defining as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, 300 miles upriver. Along came Sidney Shlenker, a Denver businessman and visionary, to promote a pyramid of pyramids, one befitting a city named after the ancient Egyptian capital."

"By the time the $68 million arena opened in November 1991, the city and Shelby County had fired Mr. Shlenker for failing to come up with his share of the project's cost. The Great American Pyramid of Memphis became, simply, the Pyramid: a place with 150,000 square feet of unused space and a never-assembled inclinator somewhere in its cavernous hold."

Full Story: A City’s Horizon, Reshaped by an Empty Promise


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