After years of talks about Bass Pro Shops coming to town, Augusta is off the list of future stores on the company’s Web site.
Bass Pro Shops was listed as a future tenant in the Village at Riverwatch shopping center in 2008, with a finish date in 2009. Because of the recession, the company put all new construction on hold, and Costco announced plans to build on the site instead.
In an April article in The Augusta Chronicle, City Administrator Fred Russell said he was no longer expecting Bass Pro Shops to come to Augusta.
“There have been extensive conversations, but at this point I'm not optimistic,” he said. “If it does materialize in the future, it would be a welcome surprise.”
Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Augusta Economic Development Authority, said Bass Pro Shops’ interest in Augusta hasn’t gone anywhere.
“They’re still out there,” he said. “They may have taken the star off the map, but I don’t really think that means anything.”
Sprouse has heard from company representatives as recently as three months ago, and he said the opening of Costco has made them more interested. Costco, he said, is a store that customers will drive a considerable distance to visit – and Bass Pro Shops believes it would benefit from that traffic.
“They were absolutely thrilled to hear about Costco,” he said. “I think they’re more interested now than they were six months ago.”
Bass Pro corporate spokesman Larry Whitely would not confirm or deny anything, but agreed with Sprouse that Augusta’s absence from the store’s map does not mean the city isn’t on the radar.
“It definitely doesn’t mean that it’s not still on the table,” he said. “It just means there’s nothing new to say about it.”
The development authority arranged $25 million in tax-exempt financing for the project, and Sprouse said the offer stands.
“There was no sunset clause,” he said. “But that’s still a lot of fishing poles to have to sell. It’s all market-driven.”