Mainstream hunting & Fishing culture is a weird thing. Depsite being a passion for many, the culture is a sea of commercialization, gimmicks and exploits. In my city of residence sits “The Memphis Pyramid”, initially known as the “Great American Pyramid”, formerly referred to as the “Pyramid Arena” and locally referred to as “The Pyramid.” The Pyramid was originally built as a 20,142-seat arena located in downtown Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi River. The facility was built in 1991 and was originally owned and operated jointly by the city of Memphis and Shelby County; Shelby County sold its share to Memphis in April 2009. Its structure plays on the city’s namesake in Egypt, known for its ancient pyramids. It is 321 feet (98m, about 32 stories) tall and has base sides of 591 ft; it is by some measures the sixth largest pyramid in the world behind the Great Pyramid of Giza (456 ft), Khafre’s Pyramid (448 ft), Luxor Hotel (348 ft), the Red Pyramid (341 ft), and the Bent Pyramid (332 ft). It is also slightly (about 16 feet) taller than the Statue of Liberty.
The Memphis Pyramid has not been regularly used as a sports or entertainment venue since 2004. Over the years, the pyramid has been the source of local controversy relating to its many shortcomings, lack of use and cost. In 2015, the Pyramid re-opened as a Bass Pro Shops “megastore”, which includes shopping, a hotel, spa, restaurants, a bowling alley, and a gun and archery range with an outdoor observation deck at its apex.
Despite my severe misgivings about about the taxpayers flipping a good chunk of the deal, reportedly to the tune of 35 million dollars, I often found myself defending this development to other locals simply because people outside of the realm of hunting & fishing culture fail to grasp how large of an industry exists around this culture. Some complained of the aesthetics of a “Redneck Riviera” amidst a large city, others lacked the financial confidence is such a retail development. For better or for worse, this behemoth of a store is now open and fully operational.
I had the opportunity to tour the facility and thoroughly examined it from top to bottom. I saw the (NYC priced) hotel rooms, the spa, the abundant taxidermy, the Ducks Unlimited museum, the restaurant, the bowling alley, the aquarium and, after riding the tallest free standing elevator in the world, I was even able to spot my personal duck hunting hole from the observation lounge.
I suppose that I have complex and mixed feelings about the pyramid. There are certainly aspects to it that are very impressive. It sort of has a “World Fair” vibe to it and much to my relief, there is a general lack of over branding once you’re inside. The guts of the store are setup to sell trinkets, fudge, and novelty household items to tourists while the peripheral offers a selection of hunting and fishing related goods typical of a BPS store. I did note that the optics selection was woefully understocked compared to the original BPS store in East Memphis, though, really, who is going to a place like this to purchase high end optics?
In the end, I think this place is generally worth experiencing. I suspect that it will be a reasonably successful tourist attraction. During waterfowl season, I expect that the place will see a fair amount of traffic since I-40 serves a corridor for destination hunting in Arkansas. As a retail store, I think that it will attract families who will spend the weekend there shopping, eating, bowling, and possibly financing a boat after having enough drinks at the bar. As far as being a store that a local or regional hunter would make a quick stop at to pick up some extra ammo or a headlamp before heading out for the weekend, it is far from ideal, nor set up for that.