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Elvis museum targets August for completion of expansion

TUPELO — The Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo is planning for an August completion of a $4.3 million expansion.

The expansion includes a 120-seat theater where fans can watch films and live performances in a 120-seat theater and an outdoor amphitheater with seating for 75. Rock seats have been installed and will be planted with sod to accommodate people with their own chairs.

The theater and other additions are part of phase one of the expansion, which also includes last fall’s tripling of on-site parking capacity.

The projects are funded partially by a $2.8 tourism bond bill approved by the Legislature. Local match came from city of Tupelo, the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation.

Dick Guyton, executive director of the birthplace, tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal the expansion more than doubles the size of the popular tourist attraction.

“I’ve been excited for five years. We started talking about a theater five years ago,” Guyton said.

The project broke ground in April 2011. Guyton had hoped to have the project finished this month, but everything took longer than expected. Now the deadline is Aug. 9, which is Tupelo’s fan appreciation day.

When it’s all done, the covered area of the birthplace will go from about 6,000 square feet to 16,000, Guyton said.

The goal of the expansion is to double the visitor count to the birthplace during the next five years. It had about 40,000 paying visitors last year, according to the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

On Wednesday, there was a flurry of activity throughout the property as concrete was poured for outdoor picnic areas, floors were laid for storage spaces and ceilings were perfected in the multipurpose hall. Eventually, pergolas will be added over sidewalks to provide more shade for visitors.

The gift shop will be bigger and will connect to the snack bar and theater.

“One of the things we decided early on is that we needed hot tea because the folks from Europe, especially England, love their hot tea,” Guyton said.

Phase two includes a larger outdoor amphitheater for at least 700 people and improvements to the overlook.

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