Elvis Presley worked hard, but when he was ready to relax, he had a plethora of hobbies and pastimes to keep him busy.
In the 1970s, he became interested in a sport that was new to him: racquetball.
Racquetball started in the 1950s and became popular by 1969. It’s very similar to both handball and squash. Elvis played his first game in November 1973, and he enjoyed it so much that he started playing at the local Y and at Memphis State.
When Elvis was relaxing at home in Memphis, his two favorite things to do were to go to the movies and play a few games of racquetball. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll lived a true rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, so he often stayed up late, watching movies or playing racquetball until the early morning hours.
In the summer of 1975, Elvis decided to bring his racquetball hobby closer to home. He began planning to build a racquetball court at Graceland, and construction of the building began in September 1975.
For decades, fans have toured Graceland, including the Racquetball Building. The front half of the building looks like a swanky lobby of a racquetball court, complete with a pinball machine, exercise equipment and a piano.
The second half of the building was the court, but for many years, the court was an additional trophy hall, filled from floor to ceiling with Elvis’ posthumous awards. The exhibit space also included a few of Elvis’ jumpsuits, which were regularly rotated out to allow the jumpsuits to “rest” in between displays.
But we’re shaking things up at Graceland – in a good way!
We’re only about a week away from opening up our new entertainment complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis. The new complex will feature new exhibits and museums, including Elvis The Entertainer Career Museum, the largest and most comprehensive Elvis museum in the world. It will include many of the awards you may have already seen in the Racquetball Building’s trophy room, or in the Trophy Building’s Hall of Gold. The museum will feature artifacts from all aspects of Elvis’ career, from his albums to concerts to movies.
What does that mean for the Racquetball Building? That means it is the way it was in 1977. Our Archives Team has been working these last several weeks to restore the walls and the court to just the way they were. These preservation efforts ensure that Graceland and the surrounding buildings will be well-kept for generations to come.
The Trophy Building, home to the famous Hall of Gold, has undergone a few changes, too. The building now tells the story of the Presley family – including a family tree. Artifacts now in this building include Elvis’ keys to Graceland, rarely-seen family photos, the family Bible and Gladys’ clothing. Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding tux and dress are on display, alongside Lisa’s crib and a few toys. A few items from Graceland’s “red period” are included, too, so you can get an idea for how the mansion looked when many of the furnishings were a lush red hue.
Back to Elvis Presley’s Memphis: the complex will also house “Discovery Exhibits,” which will further tell the story of Elvis’s life and legacy.
We can’t wait to share these changes with you. Be sure to join us for the grand opening weekend of Elvis Presley’s Memphis on March 2-5. See you at the king’s castle!