The Memphis Pyramid

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Ever since the city of Memphis, in the southwestern corner of the US state of Tennessee, was named after the ancient Egyptian capital that stood majestic along the Nile River, Memphians have been enamored with all things Egypt. The city calls itself the jewel of the "American Nile", the Mississippi River. There are permanent displays of Egyptian antiquities at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis. The gates, walls and columns at the Memphis Zoo are decorated with Egyptian motifs and hieroglyphs. There was once even a football team called Memphis Pharaohs.

In the 1950s, the city decided that it was missing one important link to their Egyptian namesake — the pyramids. It took nearly four decades to realize their dream, but finally in 1991, at the cost of $65 million, the city got its own pyramid.


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The Memphis Pyramid is located in downtown Memphis. Built of steel and concrete, it’s a towering structure that stands 98 meters (321 feet) tall and has a base that’s 180 meters (591 feet) long. That’s more than two-third in size compared to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Since its construction, the gigantic building with its shiny exterior has been the focal point of the city's skyline.

The Memphis Pyramid was originally built to house a 20,000-seat sports and concert arena. The city hoped it would rival the Egyptian pyramids and the St. Louis Gateway Arch in grandeur, but the attraction fell short of expectations. It was assumed that the arena would be NBA ready, but when the Memphis Grizzlies came to town, it was discovered that the cost of upgrading to NBA standards made it more practical to build a separate arena tailored specifically for the NBA. As a result, the $250 million FedExForum, now home of the Memphis Grizzlies, was built and opened in 2004.

The original plans also included a shortwave radio station, an outdoor elevator called the "inclinator" along the side of the building, a Hard Rock Cafe, a music museum, and a theme park on Mud Island along with other things. These were never built.


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However, the Pyramid did held many basketball games including the 1993 Great Midwest Conference Men's and Women's basketball tournaments, the 1994 and 1997 Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament, the 1996 and 2000 Conference USA men's basketball tournament, and the 2003 Conference USA women's basketball tournament. It also held the epic fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson in 2002, which Lewis won by a knockout in the eighth round.

It held concert by Cher, Bruce Springsteen and even Michael Jackson showed up for a concert commemorating the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. Between 2004 and 2007, the Memphis Pyramid saw few events. It’s last concert was performed by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band in February 3, 2007.

After lying abandoned for eight years, the Memphis Pyramid was reopened in 2015 as a Bass Pro Shops sporting good "megastore”. Aside from shopping, the Pyramid now includes a hotel, restaurants, a bowling alley, and an archery range with an outdoor observation deck at its apex.


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Sources: Wikipedia / Reuters / LA Times

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