Prince fans gobbled up tour tickets as soon as they went on sale. Many of them also bought airline tickets and took off from work. Some were just hours away from making the trip to Minnesota.
But there was an unexpected hitch: The Chanhassen City Council voted late Monday night to table a request to rezone Prince’s Paisley Park Studio as a museum.
However, it appears there will be a purple reprieve. Paisley Park officials announced Tuesday afternoon that three days of tours — Thursday, Saturday and Oct. 14 — will take place if Chanhassen officials approve a temporary permit on Wednesday morning.
“I don’t fault the City Council for raising concerns or Paisley Park for what it’s done,” said Zelda Burns, due to fly in from Chicago for one of Thursday’s opening-day tours. “I’m just upset with both sides that this is all coming down so close to the day they’re supposed to start.”
The City Council voted 3-2 to delay the rezoning of Prince’s studio to convert it into a museum, citing concerns for car and pedestrian traffic outside the complex on the already high-traffic corner of Hwy. 5 and Audubon Road.
Fans with tour tickets assumed the worst Tuesday morning. Come Tuesday afternoon, though, Paisley Park’s new operator, Graceland Holdings — which also runs Elvis Presley’s mansion-turned-museum in Memphis — confirmed that a deal had been struck with the city to allow for three days of tours.
Fans who booked tours on other dates were urged to hang on to their tickets while other plans are worked out.
“We are hopeful that we can arrange for additional temporary permit dates at Paisley Park, and will keep guests updated as we learn more,” read the news release from Paisley Park.
The news release also hinted at a possible exhibit of Prince memorabilia to be shown in a temporary home at the Mall of America, but further details of that idea were not offered.
The temporary approval comes in the form of a three-day event permit, which had been used in the past for affairs at Prince’s Chanhassen complex.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer died April 21 inside the facility from an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl.
“The city has an administrative process where we issue special three-day event permits, and they asked to take advantage of that,” said Todd Gerhardt, city manager. “I think it’s a great test to see how Paisley Park Museum operates.”
Fans were nonetheless put off by the last-minute wrangling and seemingly late decision by the City Council.
A fan coming from Australia posted on the Prince Army Facebook page her obvious concern on Tuesday morning. “Tickets should never have been sold if they hadn’t dotted all the [I’s] and [crossed] all the T’s!” Amanda Jensen wrote.
Bob Poppo, a Paisley Park regular from Munster, Ind., faulted Graceland Holdings and Prince’s estate handlers for the late delays. Poppo bought a $35 ticket for a tour next week.
“It seemed like they were obviously rushing this,” said Poppo. “I think the [City Council] has valid concerns. They need to get everything right before they open the place up, instead of thinking they can just fix things later.”
Poppo echoed statements made during Monday night’s meeting by Bethany Tjornhom, one of the three council members who voted to study the plans further. “We only have one chance to get this right,” said Tjornhom, voicing concerns of Chanhassen becoming a “tourist town” with 600,000 visitors a year.
Paisley Park representatives had already gotten unanimous approval of their tour and museum plans from Chanhassen’s Planning Commission on Sept. 20.
Mayor Denny Laufenburger also had voiced his support. He was obviously miffed during Monday’s meeting.
After the temporary permit was discussed Tuesday, Laufenburger said, “I’m very pleased for those people who have expressed to me their disappointment over the last 14 hours.”
Officially, the permit won’t be granted until city staff members from all departments — including the Fire Department, the Police Department and others — have had the chance to examine and sign it Wednesday morning, Laufenburger said.
The museum will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on those dates, and all visitors will be bused in from a location to be announced. Tickets cost $38.50, with VIP tours at $100.
During Monday’s council meeting, several fans spoke about their concerns for how Prince’s legacy will be represented at the proposed museum.
Not all were in favor of Paisley Park being reopened to tourists so quickly.
“It’s too soon,” one of the fans said, suggesting a five-year waiting period similar to when Elvis’ Graceland opened for tours.
So what’s the rush to start the tours, anyway?
Prince’s family members have said that they’re following his wishes in making over the 65,000-square-foot facility as a museum and that they wanted tours to start timed to the Oct. 13 tribute concert they organized.
The sold-out Xcel Energy Center show — originally scheduled at U.S. Bank Stadium — came together just last month with a lineup including Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and John Mayer.
“Opening Paisley Park is something that Prince always wanted to do and was actively working on,” his sister, Tyka Nelson, said in a news release when tours were announced in August.
Tours were to include Prince’s recording studios, the two performance rooms, and new displays of memorabilia, including wardrobe, awards and instruments. His private residence area, however, was not going to be opened up.
Future plans mentioned in proposals for the museum included converting a smaller, round, unused building on the grounds into a boutique hotel.
New staff members had been hired over the past few weeks to work at the museum. Paisley Park representatives did not answer questions about what will happen with those jobs.
Vote in December
Money is also a likely motivator in getting Paisley Park up and running quickly. Graceland Holdings invested an undisclosed sum — Rolling Stone magazine reported it as several million dollars — to operate the museum tours and sell merchandise there, which will generate instant revenue for Prince’s estate.
Estimated between $100 million to $300 million in value and currently managed by Bremer Trust, Prince’s estate has faced steep legal costs in recent months as at least two dozen people have filed affidavits claiming to be rightful heirs. A hefty tax bill is likely due at year’s end, too.
At the same time, a lot of the revenue-generating business around Prince’s music, such as approval of new album releases and song licensing, is largely on hold due to all of the estate matters.
The City Council indefinitely postponed voting on a rezoning request but indicated it will come before the council for another vote “on or before” Dec. 20.