MEMPHIS, Tenn.–I am in the middle of doing a slam-bang overnighter to see Bass Pro Shops Pyramid, the world’s first sort of outdoors-related complex like it.
I am doing a column, but I am also going to break it down in pieces here online.
Starting with the basics.
Mapquest puts the drive as 8 hours, 17 minutes and 534 miles from downtown Chicago (60611). The directions are easy: Take I-57 to where it ends at I-55 in Missouri, then south to I-40 near the border of Arkansas, then east and across the Mississippi River and exit at Front Street.
You can’t miss it, the Pyramid is rather distinctive. Well, a pyramid as a big as a pyramid.
Just to give you an idea, people pulled off and parked and did exactly what I did when I came off I-40, took photos of the Pyramid, such as the one above.
It’s a Bass Pro, so there’s all kinds of camping, hunting and fishing stuff, but this store recognizes its urban setting and has much to appeal to a much broader audience and there is literally a buzz or hum around and lights (all individually aimed assistant general manager Jeff Warren told me.)
That is what I find most compelling about this story is the interaction of outdoors-related retail with an much more urban crowd. Put it this way, any family can find stuff to do and look at.
Not to mention there is a good waterfowl museum (associated with Memphis-based Ducks Unlimited).
Oh, and a hotel and meeting space area wrapped around the shopping area in Big Cypress Lodge. I was surprised how many meetings were going on this morning when I circled the third floor on the way back from breakfast.
The place just opened a couple weeks ago and already there were meetings (suit and tie stuff) gathered on a Monday morning.
Breakfast and dinner for me were at Uncle Buck’s FishBowl & Grill. As to the FishBowl, capturing two parts of my writing life, there is truly bowling inside with a fish theme.
In other words, as assistant general manager Warren put it, “You can spend the weekend and never leave.”
That sounds like an Eagles song, but he is right.
And don’t miss out on stopping at the Tennessee Welcome Center, which is at the front of the drive leading back to Bass Pro.
This morning I was caught by the sight of a massive statue of B.B. King.
Of course, the King, Elvis Presley, has his own room out front.
Tennessee is varied and complex state. I think the Welcome Center nicely captures that.
The whole experience of being at Bass Pro Shops Pyramid is overwhelming, it is that all-encompassing. We are talking about a Bass Pro and entertainment complex built inside the arena that was home to the Grizzlies.
For God’s sake, it is like trying to capture the meaning of Elvis in American society.
Just before a downpour on Sunday, I arrived and found one of the farthest and nearly last parking spot in a parking lot with 1,200 spaces. You read that right, 1,200 parking spaces.
The part I am going to take a few days to mull is that it may be the way to broaden the outdoor world, bring it downtown to the people.
To me, that’s the crux of whether this innovation in outdoors retailing will matter in the big picture.
Will it keep or broaden the outdoors world?
Much more to come over the week.