It may have been a little rough at times, but I wholeheartedly believe that Memphis won 2011. Here are 10 great things that happened to the city in 2011:
1. The Grizzlies go to the NBA Playoffs (and win!)
Few things unite Memphians like baskteball, and 2011 was the year when the city finally came around to (and fell in love with) the Grizzlies. We got to know the players (and their catchphrases), we waved our yellow towels with pride and stayed for triple overtime. We got unexpectedly emotionally involved in baskebtall in mid-May. Most importantly, we believed.
2. "Memphis: the Musical" opens in Memphis
"Memphis: the Musical" may have opened on Broadway in 2009, but the show's touring production started in Memphis in 2011. The uplifiting, exciting muscial played to sold-out crowds at the Orpheum Theatre for two weeks in October before heading off to bring the spirit of our city to the rest of the country.
3. Food trucks hit the streets
The city passed legislation in April that allowed food trucks to park in Memphis. It may have taken a few months for them to get rolling, but now we can grab meals on wheels from more than 50 trucks (with more on the way). If you're still searching for them, check the food truck parking space by the Barking Lot and the Levitt Shell and Shelby Farms on the weekends.
4. Obama Speaks at Commencement
President Obama made his first trip to Memphis in 2011 to deliver a special graduation address to the senior class of Booker T. Washington High School. BTHS won the honor of hosting the President by winning the Race to the Top contest, which was partially determined by votes from Memphians.
5. The Tigers Go to the Big Dance
They may have gotten knocked out in the first round in a nail-biter against Arizona, but the important thing is that the University of Memphis Tigers made it to the Big Dance despite all the odds.
6. Memphis' Most Epic Playground Opens
Memphis kids have no excuse to go outside now – 2011 saw the construction of the Woodland Discovery Playground, which is possibly the most epic play area in the south. The giant, environmentally sustainable playground has five "nests" that have everything from slides to sandboxes to climbing nests and bouncy swings. Now, all we need is a chance for the adults to try it.
7. City Streets Get Bicycle Lanes
In 2012, Mayor A C Wharton announced that 55 miles of bicycle lanes would be added to city streets. In 2011, it happened. Streets all over the city have been repaved and striped to make them safe for cyclists. The biggest (and hardest fought) bike lane win was in Madison Ave., where the city managed to not only add lanes, but also increase street parking.
8. Bass Pro Finally Started to Happen
After a lot of talking, a lot of back and forth and a whole lot of waiting, Bass Pro Shops finally started turning the Pyramid into a giant new sportsman's emporium. The iconic building is being turned from an arena into a giant shop, boat dock, aquarium, bowling area and attraction. I can't wait to see the finished product in 2012.
9. Memphis' First Skate Park Opens
Boarders of all ages got a safe place to skate in 2011. Memphis' first public skate park opened in mid-November. It's a nice one, too – there are plenty of bowls, rails and ramps in the $500,000 park for skaters and bikers of all levels.
10. Tons of New Food Options
So many new eateries popped in up in Memphis in 2011 that it's hard to list them all. Here are a few of the new dining options we got in 2011: The Brass Door (Irish Pub), Imagine Vegan Cafe, Alchemy, East Tapas, Eighty3, Stone Soup Cafe, Slider Inn, Southern Belle, Bleu, the Elegant Farmer.
What were your favorite things to happen in Memphis in 2011?