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State's Number One Tourist Attractions Showcases Expansion

Posted by Allie Martin | August 09, 2012 / 04:48pm | Local News
TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) - It was a ribbon cutting ceremony more than five years in the making.

The $4,300,000 expansion features a movie theater that can also be used for live performances, a reception area, , a snack  bar , conference room, and other features. Outside, there's a 75 seat amphitheater and a picnic space.

Those getting a first peek on the annual Elvis fan day were impressed.

"Wow, wow," said UK fan Sharon O'Brien.

"It's great, it's not just about the one house, even though the house  is the star attraction and that's probably why people come to this particular area, I think it's nice for them to see other aspects of  Elvis as well," said Victoria Fleming, also from the UK.

"It's a big change since we last came we came two years ago and this  is all new and it looks very impressive," said Gerald Redfern, also of Great Britain.

Dignitaries who addressed the overflow crowd during opening ceremonies called the new facility a game changer for the tourism industry in Tupelo.

"This really puts us in the major league status of destinations for  the Elvis Presley legacy," said Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed, Jr.

"This is the largest tourist site in Mississippi, right here, the birthplace of Elvis, it brings hundreds of thousands of people a year, they spend money it turns around, this thing will pay for itself in  very short order," said State Rep. Steve Holland, who was instrumental in helping secure state funding for the project.

Visitors even had a chance to hear stories from those who knew Elvis. Guy Harris says his boyhood friend would be amazed at the  transformation of his birthplace.

"He would really be proud and , I cal tell you what I think the first words he'd say is ' where did they get all that money?" Harris said.

Plans call for more expansion at the birthplace.  In a few years there will be a larger outdoor ampitheater, the walking track will be  improved and there will be some attractions on the overlook behind me.  All part of an ongoing effort to keep the legacy of Elvis alive  while attracting more tourists to his hometown.

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