After the sale, Authentic Brands said upgrades to the tourist attraction were planned. Earlier this year, Elvis Presley Enterprises announced plans to build a 450-room hotel, theater and restaurant, with a projected opening date of August 2015. Their plan was approved Tuesday by the Memphis City Council.
Today, Graceland visitors can buy a ticket that includes a tour of Presley’s home-turned-museum and the two airplanes. Fans climb into the airplanes for an up-close look at their interiors.
The larger plane, a Convair 880 named after Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie, is like a customized flying limousine, complete with a large bed, a stereo system, conference room and gold-plated bathroom fixtures. It was renovated after Presley bought it from Delta Air Lines. Presley took his first flight on it in November 1975.
When Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, Presley’s pilot flew the Lisa Marie to California to pick up Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, to bring her back to Memphis.
The smaller jet, a JetStar named the Hound Dog II, was also used by Presley.
At one point, after the planes were sold following the singer’s death, the Lisa Marie was owned by Raymond Zimmerman, owner of the Service Merchandise chain, according to Coker. The Hound Dog II was in the hands of Hustler head Larry Flynt for a time, Coker said.
OKC Partnership eventually bought the planes and the Lisa Marie was installed at Graceland in 1984. The Hound Dog II came later.
Coker, 76, says OKC may sell the planes if they’re removed from Graceland, but he still hopes to negotiate a deal that would keep the planes there. Coker acknowledges that he and his partners would lose money from ticket sales if the planes were removed.
“I would love to see the airplanes stay where they are forever,” Coker said. “Millions of fans have toured those airplanes and there’s a real connection between fans and those airplanes. Those airplanes are part of the Elvis experience.”