♫Wake up everybody, no more sleepin’ in bed. No more backward thinkin’ time for thinkin’ ahead♫
If I had 3 wishes, one would be that the decision makers for the City Of Memphis would take the first line of that song to heart. I’ve spent my entire life in Memphis, and the time for change is now. We’ve got to shake this stigma of being the world’s largest hick town. But the bass ackward thinking of our “leaders” has run this city into the ground. Memphis, I’m declaring an emergency. We need investors now.
Property taxes, shmoperty taxes. Every year at budget time, that’s all you hear from our city leaders. When a particular cell within our city’s governing body wants to sway the citizens to see things they’re way, the “increase property tax” storm cloud is set afloat. It seems that our government balances its time between how to spend property tax money and luring business that are supposed to bring jobs to Memphis. Where is the effort to generate revenue?
Someone to invest in amusement for tourists and residents
In 1962, there was Lakeland. It was originally touted to be the Disneyland of the Mid-South. It never quite made it to that level, yet it reigned supreme until Libertyland surfaced in 1976. Libertyland fizzled out just shy of its 30th anniversary. In 1985, Adventure River helped pass the summers away as we slid down water slides until 1998. What are our options now? You can drive 186 miles west and visit Magic Springs and Crystal Falls or drive 292 miles north and visit Six Flags over St. Louis.
There is a lot of vacant land in the Memphis/Shelby County area that would be ideal for an amusement park and/or water park. Indoor water parks like Schlitterbahn, Keylime Cove, and the Great Wolf Lodge can provide year round fun for everyone. Amusement Parks and hotels go hand-in-hand. People love to have fun at the parks and not have to drive 15 miles to their hotel room. Ticket prices, souvenirs, restaurants, and hotel rooms generate tax revenue. I was totally dumbfounded when Greg Ericson’s offer to buy the pyramid and Mud Island and create an amusement park was rejected. Instead we’ll (eventually) get a Bass Pro Shop and keep the greatest cash cow in Memphis History, Mud Island(Sarcasm…I’m not high).
Will someone connect Beale Street to the Tunica Casinos by train or monorail?
Visualize connecting downtown Memphis to the Tunica Casinos. Tourists visiting Memphis can check out the casinos. Casino guests can come to Beale St. Virtually worry-free travel between Memphis and Tunica. Not having to worry about speeding tickets or drunk drivers. This would not only benefit casino patrons, but the employees that commute to and from Memphis.
How about connecting Memphis to other cities via rail?
Until the mid- 70’s you could catch a train from Memphis to almost anywhere. Nashville, St. Louis, Albuquerque were destinations accessible via rail. The airline boom coupled with some strange federal regulations crippled the passenger rail industry. Now, the Amtrak City of New Orleans passes through twice a day as a midway point between New Orleans and Chicago. Wouldn’t it be great to hop a train and travel to Nashville to shop or catch a Titans game and come home? How about a trip to Atlanta to see your beloved Grizzlies take on the Atlanta Hawks. Better yet, catch a Falcons or Braves game. At one point there was a feasibility study on rail service between Little Rock and Memphis. How many people are dying to spend a weekend in Little Rock?
The airline industry has become the equivalent of a crack dealer. They lured us in with great prices and now were hooked. Guess what? They’ve gone up on the price. Remember the abusive relationship between our city and Delta Airlines. Delta didn’t want us to court discount airlines. “If you move them in, we’re moving out!” was the the threat for many years. Yet they didn’t want to give us lower fares. We were held hostage by them for years. Frontier and Southwest have came. They haven’t been our saving grace per se, but at least it forced Delta’s hand to file for a divorce. Which they did. We need our leaders to lobby the state and federal governments to help reestablish the rails as an alternative to the air. 30-year horizons are unacceptable.
How about an international district?
If you’ve ever traveled to a major city, then you’ve either seen or visited their Chinatown. Nevertheless, Memphis is a very diverse city. People have immigrated here from all over the world. Wouldn’t a venue where you could visit and consume authentic cuisine from around the world? A mall of restaurants, shops, and clubs that are culturally influenced would rival Downtown Disney. Not to mention the year round celebrations! Chinese New year, Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Cino de Mayo, Oktoberfest, are just a few of the celebrations that would make this place great! That It would put Memphis on the map for something other than barbeque. To get a grasp of the full potential of an international district in Memphis, grab a copy of Around the World in 500 Festivals.
More Marquee Restaurants
Why do I have to make a trip to Atlanta or Dallas to enjoy Papadeaux’s? Why do I look forward to trips to Nashville so I can go to The Cheesecake Factory or Maggio’s? These are not only great restaurants they are great jobs. Higher end restaurants generate more tax revenue. A cheesecake Factory junkie from Sardis can travel to Memphis more times over than waiting for their next trip to Atlanta. After all, someone from the city of Memphis solicited Bass Pro Shops like an old maid whose biological clock was on snooze. So why not try to lure some of these marquee restaurants to our city?
Back to my assertion of backward thinking. It has been said time and time again that Memphis does not have enough hotel rooms to host events like the NBA All-Star game. So explain to me why a Hilton Garden Inn is going to be built on the corner of Union and Fourth? Across the street from Autozone Park and walking distance to the FedEx Forum a new hotel with 140 rooms and 3,000 square feet of “meeting” space is coming. Those 140 rooms are going to put a real dent in our hotel room deficit. The Peabody has 464 rooms. The Double Tree Hotel has 280 rooms. One would think that the zoning gurus would have put a stipulation in place that the hotel have at least 350 rooms. Downtown is not the place to build a hotel with 3,000 square feet of Meeting Space. There should be space for upscale parties and large conventions. It’s the small town thinking that constantly puts Memphis behind the eight ball. Any new hotels built in the downtown area should enhance the Memphis Skyline if you catch my drift? More hotel rooms equals more conventions. More conventions generates revenue.
What about the crime?
Our city leaders are going to have to step up to the plate when it comes to law and order in this city. The problem is shared between law enforcement, the juvenile justice system, and the attorney general’s office. The first step toward making Memphis viable is showing that people who come will be safe. Mass arrests aren’t necessary; however, you have to establish that there are laws in this town and they are enforced. For instance, if you’re arrested for disorderly conduct in Germantown or Bartlett, there will be some consequences. In the city of Memphis it is usually dismissed with a smile. You can’t run a city like that.
I’d love to hear your ideas (serious ideas) on what you think it would take to make this city great.