Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Not A Whole Lot Shaking At The Pyramid

So, after four years of supposed serious interest in opening a megastore in The Pyramid, Bass Pro Shop discovers that Memphis sits on a fault zone.

Due diligence sure must mean something different in Springfield, Missouri.

That said, it was curious to us that using this sudden seismic concern as justification for why Bass Pro Shop won’t sign a binding letter of intent wasn’t made by Bass Pro Shop officials themselves.

Witness For The Defense

Instead, it was advanced by City Hall officials who appear to be clinging to any defense for why Bass Pro Shop has delivered so little for so long.

Of course, the store has played the same game in Buffalo, New York – six years and counting as our New York fellow sufferer waits for Bass Pro Shop to match its rhetoric with a binding agreement. And Buffalo doesn’t even have the New Madrid Fault as an excuse.

We don’t mean to insinuate that we know what the sporting goods retailer is thinking. So far, they have been as inscrutable as Buddha.


Their continued silence – in the face of a blizzard of questions about their commitment to the project in the old downtown arena – seems to be the loudest statement that they could make about their seriousness in Memphis.

There’s little in the store’s behavior that indicates that it’s working as a partner in this project. To some, its lack of comment feels an awful lot like stonewalling.

We’re not sure of that, but it sure doesn’t feel like we’re expecting too much when we look for an official statement of continued commitment to the project, or even a “feel good” statement generated by the chain’s public relations department.

Whole Lot Of Shaking

Can they at least throw a line to their Memphis advocates who seem to be fighting tirelessly the store’s battles?

It’s disconcerting to see our city officials doing all the heavy lifting to salvage such a major project with such an absence of help from its chief beneficiary. It just speaks to how strange this project has been from the beginning, and why it finds such lack of enthusiasm by much of Memphis.

As for The Pyramid itself, it is not a “seismic building.” It was intended to be, but as part of the cost-cutting that seemed to be such a part of the building’s history, seismic protection was cut out of the budget early on.

Cold Comfort

In particular, former City Council member Barbara Sonnenburg emotionally pleaded with her colleagues to require that the building have seismic protection. She had recently visited Reelfoot Lake where she looked over the earthquake-created landscape and had a premonition of what could happen to The Pyramid.

However, at the time, engineers on the project said: “If there is an earthquake, the building will crack, but it will stand. It will not be destroyed.”

That’s probably cold comfort to anybody looking to invest tens of millions of dollars in the building (although it’s not dissuaded theme park developer Greg Ericson), but engineers pointed out that about 1,600 pilings were being driven at various depths to keep the arena in place in lieu of a complete seismic design.


Or as one member of the Pyramid Building authority, in the midst of a discussion about the arena collapsing into the Mississippi River, joked: “At least we know we’re not building an arena for New Orleans.”

Of course, when that Richter Scale-busting day comes, the condition of The Pyramid will be the least of our worries.


Christa said...

I find this so hard to believe that after all this time they are just now realizing that Memphis is on a fault line. I mean where have they been? It seems like to me on another planet. It has been talked about for a long time that Memphis is on a major fault line. This humors me because it is something to freaking obvious. I guess that is just dumb people for you.

bob said...

Any comment on Thaddeus Matthews' claim that our contract with the Grizzlies to keep it available as a backup prevents us from doing anything with the Pyramid for years?

Does it? Can the clause be bought out? If not, would it give the Grizzlies an excuse to break their contract?

sherman said...

In addition to his inept negotiating skills, I would add worst p.r. job ever to Lipscomb's "sales" job to the public. At least he's got the Commercial Appeal taking his words about Ericson as hook, line, & Shlenker.

Smart City Consulting said...


We don't believe it's a problem. We'll try to find the agreement and read it again, but we recall that The Pyramid has to be made available to the Grizzlies as a backup facility in the event of catastrophic damage as long as The Pyramid is able to be used as an arena. We believe the issue is moot if the building is used for another purpose.

Smart City Consulting said...

Sherman: We like that turn of a phrase. You need to be writing headlines.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any insight into what is up with this Robert Lipscomb guy? I can only assume, with the limited info available about Bass Pro's intent, that Robert must be on the take with them, or he has a personal vendetta against Ericson. Ericson's proposal might not be the best fit for the pyramid, but the angst from Lipscomb when it comes to Ericson is just plain weird.

sherman said...

Am I the only one who thinks that Lipscomb's efforts here portend particularly bad things for the fairgrounds project he is in charge of? The man obviously does not have Memphis taxpayer's interests at heart.

Anonymous said...

sherman: it's either watching a combination of keystone cops and joe mccarthy - all bumbling but his mind's made up. bass pro shop isn't the most embarassing thing in memphis. it's the way this supposed process is being carried out. the fix is in.

Lee said...

Is there a summary somewhere of the 2 proposals on the table for the pyramid and their perceived net effect for Memphis?

Thank you in advance

Lee said...

Is there a summary somewhere of the 2 proposals on the table for the pyramid and their perceived net effect for Memphis?

Thank you in advance

Smart City Consulting said...

Lee: If you'll email, we'll send you the analysis by city government if that will help.