THE FORGE MEMPHIS INTRODUCES A $10 MILLION PRIVATELY-FUNDED CATALYST FOR THE REEMERGENCE OF MUD ISLAND
Concept to include aerial adventure course with quarter-mile-long zipline across the Wolf River Harbor, accompanying programming and activations, and food & beverage offering
MEMPHIS—A $10 million private investment in Mud Island has arrived in the form of The Forge Memphis, an aerial adventure course with accompanying programming and activations designed to deliver unique year-round activities for adventurers of all ages and abilities.
The project, which will require no incentives from any governmental bodies, was presented to members of the Memphis City Council on Tuesday, August 9.
The Forge Memphis is two years in the making and was conceived by DCA founder and principal Doug Carpenter, who has been instrumental in the branding and perpetuity of public-private projects including the Big River Crossing & Trail, the Mighty Lights, Explore Bike Share, and Liberty Park. He and co-founders Katie Elizabeth Carpenter and Frank Ricks established the venture in 2020 and have since advanced the company with a tested business model and fully-engineered designs by Bonsai Design, a Colorado-based award-winning adventure course designer.
“We’ve evolved the plans and designs over the years with thoughtful feedback from and coordination with so many partners to not only better accommodate Mud Island but also create a better user experience,” said Doug Carpenter. “In the end, our goal is to authentically contribute to the accelerating culture of outdoor recreation and help realize the City’s vision for Mud Island and our riverfront as a whole.”
In early 2022, the business model attracted the attention of Jeremie Bacon, founder of The Forge Adventure Parks.
With a mission of “adventure for all,” The Forge is a social enterprise that designs and operates state-of-the-art adventure parks. The company opened its first park, The Forge Lemont Quarries in the suburbs of Chicago, IL in July 2020. Since opening, The Forge Lemont Quarries has been ranked a USA Today Top Three Best New Attraction in America in 2020 and Top Three Best Aerial Adventure Park in America in 2022. Stretching across 300-acres of historically significant land, The Forge Lemont Quarries was developed as a public-private partnership and stands as the largest climbing, aerial rope, and ziplining course in the country. The operation has been a key partner in rebranding Lemont as a destination while attracting both public and private capital to the community.
“I have had a long-time interest in the growth of Memphis,” said Bacon, whose 20-year career in finance and technology has crossed paths with Memphis-based companies. “After learning more about this project and recognizing the unique public-private parallels between Mud Island and our other projects, this felt like a natural partnership. I couldn’t be more excited.”
THE FORGE MEMPHIS
Poised to catalyze and grow the Memphis riverfront, the business model is built on three pillars—Exhilarate, Educate, and Entertain—to activate and program portions of Mud Island River Park with a unique-to-market experience for both locals and visitors.
“Activating our riverfront is key to growing our local tourism economy,” said Kevin Kane, President & CEO of Memphis Tourism. “We recognize and understand the growing potential and economic impact of outdoor and adventure attractions. With the transformative Tom Lee Park development and increased river cruise line dockings at Beale Street Landing, a project like The Forge will only add to the momentum of our ever expanding tourism amenities here in the Memphis destination.”
The Forge Memphis includes a Skybridge Zipline Tour, an Aerial Challenge Course & Climbing areas, a food & beverage operation in the current Gulf Grill space, along with robust and frequent activations of music, races, festivals, and events to supplement the Downtown Memphis event calendar. The Forge Memphis’ footprint is light due to its aerial structure and is intentionally designed to be both compatible and additive with existing and potential uses of the Island.
The Skybridge tour will include two ziplines. The first will carry guests 500 feet from the top of the Skybridge over the Wolf River Harbor toward the Memphis skyline, connecting with a custom-built tower and elevated rope bridge. The second will carry guests almost one quarter of a mile over the Wolf River Harbor at speeds up to 50 miles per hour, landing near the Mississippi River model’s Gulf of Mexico.
Educational programming will be designed for school field trips, youth summer camps, and professional development team outings. Conservation and ecology education is a critical element of The Forge and will be applied in Memphis to support Memphis River Parks Partnership programming on Mud Island.
“The Forge is a multi-disciplined operation that can scale up our capacity to activate and engage locals and visitors with Mud Island for the City and Memphis River Parks Partnership,” continued Jeremie Bacon. “Our site plan and its accompanying activities are designed to entertain and bring people together. Boredom has no place at The Forge.”
The Forge Memphis conservatively projects 100,000 annual visitors.
“We are ready for construction and anticipate a 9-10-month period with possibilities to sync with Tom Lee Park’s official grand opening next summer,” said The Forge Memphis co-founder Katie Carpenter. “We look forward to advancing this vision with the City and Memphis River Parks Partnership.”
See more at forgeparks.com.