The Zippin Pippin is famous for two reasons, it is the oldest wooden rollercoaster in America and it also happened to be Elvis Presley’s favourite fairground ride. Located at the Mid-South Fairgrounds in Memphis, it has not been used since the park closed in 2005, but earlier this week, the Memphis Heritage met to its future and possible relocation.
The Save Libertyland! group that may or may not own the Zippin Pippin has reached an agreement with one of the companies that wants to develop attractions in and around The Pyramid.
Steve Mulroy of Save Libertyland! Inc. announced Monday afternoon the group has agreed to let the Ericson Group move and renovate the Zippin Pippin roller coaster as part of Greg Ericson’s $250 million plan for The Pyramid, Mud Island and the surrounding riverfront.
The Ericson Group proposal had been known as Pyramid Adventure but recently underwent a name change to Pyramid Harbor. The wooden, 85-year-old roller coaster would be in an amusement park to be built on Mud Island. The island park would be renamed Harbor Island as part of the larger project.
Mulroy, who is also a Shelby County commissioner, estimated moving the Pippin would cost around $1 million and the renovation would cost another $65,000. That is compared to a cost of $25 million for a new steel roller coaster Ericson proposes to run up one side of The Pyramid and inside the structure.
The Herenton administration has been negotiating for nearly three years with Bass Pro Shops to develop The Pyramid. Those negotiations are set to expire at the end of January under a non-binding letter of intent between the city and Bass Pro.
Ericson is scheduled to present his Pyramid Harbor proposal to Memphis City Council members Jan. 22. He presented the plan to County Commission members in December.
The Save Libertyland! group is in a legal dispute with the city of Memphis over who owns the roller coaster, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The roller coaster was sold at auction to the amusement park company Carolina Crossings, which then gave it to Save Libertyland! The city claims as part of the legal dispute that since Save Libertyland! didn’t move the structure off the fairgrounds property in five days, ownership has reverted back to the city.
Ericson said he hopes to reach an agreement with the city to move the nearby Grand Carousel at the former Libertyland theme park to Mud Island as well.
Elvis’ abortive romance with Natalie Wood: Lana Wood, sister of screen legend, Natalie Wood, wrote in her book Natalie A Memoir by Her Sister, of the brief relationship in 1956 between Elvis and Natalie:
Then came Natalie’s abortive romance with Elvis Presley. They met, and Elvis flew Natalie to his family in Memphis.
They were to be gone almost a week, but just two days into the great adventure, Natalie called.
”Gladys has wrecked everything,” Natalie said, referring to Elvis’ domineering, jealous mother. ”I don’t have a chance. Get me out of this, and fast,” Natalie said.
It was agreed that Mother would call Natalie back and ask her to come home because of some family emergency. Natalie’s romance with the king of rock fizzled out.
”God, it was awful,” she told me later. ”He can sing, but he can’t do much else.” (Source: Natalie A Memoir by Her Sister, Lana Wood, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1984)