Way back in 1999 when the Ultimate Sports Road Trip was first hatched , the city of Memphis and the
Pyramid were nowhere to be seen on the master plan of cities and venues to be visited. Then came 2001,
when after six seasons of never ending struggle on and off the court the Vancouver Grizzlies began to look
south for greener pastures. After months of intense competition amongst several cities in the U.S., the
Grizzlies chose Memphis to be their new home effective for the 2001-02 season, with the Pyramid being
their temporary home until a new arena was built.
Outside the venue
Memphis is a riverfront city named for an ancient Egyptian city that also sat on the banks of a river - the
mighty Nile. So it is no coincidence that a building named The Pyramid is exactly that, a thirty plus story
pyramid rising at the north end of the Memphis skyline near the Mississippi riverfront. On the plaza to the
east of the venue near its marquee is a huge statue of Pharaoh Ramesses, serving as an imposing greeter
to patrons approaching the building. To say the very least, the design and theme of the exterior of this facility
is the most unique in all of pro sports - nothing even comes close.
The outside plazas are pretty austere - large parking lots and a series of canopied walkways and bridges
lead you to one of four separate entrances. Although on the edge of downtown, there is little of a
neighborhood to speak of - just some houses, neighborhood stores and parking lots.
Getting to the venue
Getting to this facility is pretty simple as there are several major roadways that run by or near the Pyramid,
and if you travel east on I-40 across the river from West Memphis, you will enjoy the most imposing view of
this venue. For those who wish to go to the game in a different fashion, there are two old fashioned
north/south trolley lines that stop at the Pyramid and can shuttle you into downtown and its attractions.
For the most part, this is a single concourse building with ample walking room to get from your seat to
whereever you need to go to. Plenty of concession stands and team merchandise kiosks to be found. Above
each of the building’s four entrance/exits is a large dot matrix board showing ads, upcoming events, etc. A
patron can get a view of the action from the main concourse when standing at the baseline areas.
There are two smaller concourses, one at each baseline. At one end is the Pyramid Gallery of Stars, which
features large pictures of athletes and entertainers who have performed at the Pyramid since its opening
just over a decade ago. Opposite this concourse is a premium club concourse with lounge seating and
bars to kick back and have a drink. This concourse is one of many recent additions that have been made to
the Pyramid with the arrival of the Grizz.
Plenty of typical ballpark and stadium fare to be found here, even Buffalo style chicken fingers, along with
some classic Memphis staples, most notably the nachos with BBQ pulled pork….gotta be the NBA’s best
nachos! Again, there are team merchandise kiosks in each corner of the building but we must note the lack
of a main “team store” in this facility.
At close to 21,000 seats this is one of the NBA’s largest venues. Seating is divided into a lower level that
completely surrounds the court and an upper level with sideline seating. Sandwiched in between the two
levels on the sidelines are the suites.
Once in your seat you’ll notice that you can easily see the infrastructure of the pyramid shaped venue with
the four sides reaching to the apex high above center court. This design helps to create some interesting
nuances such as the huge ads that are high up along the walls above the baselines. We’ve only seen this
once before - at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh and the stat boards that hang high above each baseline.
Cool thing in the seating bowl- Digital LED board installed along the sideline between the two levels,
another new addition that was unveiled with the arrival of the Grizzlies.
Huge minus about the seating bowl- no out of town scoreboard. This is a MUST in any major sports venue!
Along the ground level on the west side of the building is a beautiful Grizzlies Club for premium seat holders
- carvery, pasta station and lounge area, all very nicely appointed. Along the sidelines at the top of the 100
level is a ring of suites, but otherwise the only other premium seating is courtside.
Retired numbers and banners
This is the Grizzlies seventh season of existence and their best record to date is that mind blowing 23-59
record they had in their final season in Vancouver. THANKFULLY, the Grizzlies have had the sense not to
retire anyone’s number or a banner “celebrating” any ridiculous moment that the front office could think up
of. Well done Grizzlies, for simply hanging one banner commemorating your first season in Memphis. That’s
all you need for now.
Slam Dunks, Extra Points, Fouls
Extra Point….After going 0 for 4 in 2002, the USRT jinx comes to an end with the Grizzlies 97-86 thrashing of
the Denver Nuggets. You’d think that the fans would have been ecstatic seeing their team win in dominating
Foul…to Grizz fans, apparently there is a promotion in which the fans get a free taco if the Grizz hit the
century mark on the scoreboard. It looked like a certainty with the Grizz in the mid 90’s with five minutes to
go, but they took it easy and played sloppy down the stretch and wound up receiving quite the smattering of
boos from the fans. Quick memo to Grizz fan -- the U of Memphis won about as many times as the Grizz this
year, celebrate the moment!!
Slam Dunk…to Grizz employees Don Hardman and his assistant Lisa McEntire for giving up some time out
of their busy day to hang with us before gametime and get us some credentials, so we could visit parts of
the building that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We welcome Lisa to the USRT Hall of Fame, as Don is
already a member, thanks to our meeting with him while he was in the midst of packing boxes and other
important materials up in Vancouver. Thank you again!
Extra Point….don’t forget folks, the MAIN EVENT is coming June 8th when the much awaited fight between
Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson takes place at the Pyramid!!
Slam Dunk…To the Grizz fans who answered the call for assistance from a couple of roadtrippers who had
no clue about the Memphis, much less what to do and where to go while in town. Our website email box
was bombarded with plenty of ideas that were put to good use by us. THANK YOU…we had a fine time
“Walking in Memphis”, we’ll be back when the new place is up and running!
Extra point -one of the best half time entertainment shows we have seen anywhere - "The Beale Street
Flippers" are a group of talented break dancers who strut their stuff at mid court, with the crowd's rhythmic
clapping encouraging them. Stay in your seats for this one folks!
Foul…to ourselves, we just bought a new digital camera, and we haven’t completely figured out how to use
it. Thus lots of our indoor photos didn’t come out too well, we’ll get it right next time (hopefully!)
The Pyramid is spectacular from the outside, and so-so on the inside. For now it is doing just what is being
asked of it, to be a temporary home for the Grizz until the new arena goes up. Plans are in the works for a
spectacular new venue to be built right next to Beale Street, with opening day set for fall of 2004. The
Pyramid is a nice, inexpensive (NBA’s lowest prices!) place to catch a game. Overall, a place that falls in the
middle of the pack.
RATING(1 TO 5 stars): 3 STARS