TUPELO — An official with the Elvis Birthplace and Museum expects little trouble in coming up with a 20 percent local match to garner $2.8 million from the state to enhance the Tupelo tourist destination.
“We don’t see a problem raising our share,” said Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation Executive Director Dick Guyton.
The funds to improve the Tupelo birthplace of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is part of a $400-million bond package signed into law by Gov. Haley Barbour.
Many Tupelo businesses, said Guyton, would probably see the local matching funds as an opportunity to make improvements that would attract more visitors to the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum and longer stays.
That will help those businesses and all of the local economy, agreed Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
The first-term mayor said he supports the idea of making the birthplace a destination that would entice tourists to stay overnight instead of half a day, as many do now when they visit Tupelo as a side trip to Graceland in Memphis.
The bond package includes funds primarily for repair and renovations at the eight public universities, 15 community colleges, other state-owned buildings and for other tourism-related sites.
Guyton said the next step will be to hire an architect to put together the plans for the birthplace.
“We can’t do that until the bonds are sold. We don’t know when that will be,” he said.
The bonds most likely will be sold this year, but an exact date is not known.
The primary planned improvements would be a theater connected to the museum and gift shop and an Elvis Childhood trail leading to an amphitheater.
Plus, the theater would be available for other events, such as wedding receptions.
The plan would call for programs ongoing and scheduled 18 months in advance for the many foreign Elvis fans who schedule their travel early.