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Bass Pro Shops decision to back out of store not a surprise to some

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There were signs that Bass Pro Shops was going to back out of plans to build a store in Columbia County before the company made it official Friday.


The company never applied for any permits needed to begin construction on the eight-acre site where the 50,000-square-foot store was slated to be located. Bass Pro announced at a July 24 press conference that the store would open by spring 2015.

“When they didn’t send us the sign and all that stuff to put up in the first 10 days, we sort of knew something was going on,” said project developer and property owner Mason McKnight III.

Late last week, county officials found out by phone that Bass Pro Shops was nixing plans to build the store on Mason McKnight Jr. Parkway, just off the Interstate 20 and Flowing Wells Road intersection.

The sporting goods chain said there were concerns that the Augusta market couldn’t handle both an outpost store and one under construction by competitor Cabela’s Inc., in the Village at Riverwatch development, according to Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross.

“Bass Pro Shops is afraid of Ca­bela’s and won’t be coming to Co­lum­bia County,” Cross said Tuesday.

In a statement Wednesday, however, the company denied it was concerned about competition.

“Frankly, we face competition in most markets, but we continue to thrive in spite of it because of our exceptional employees and the outstanding products and services we provide,” wrote Tammy Sapp, director of communications for Bass Pro Shops.

According to Sapp, the statement was issued “to respond to and provide clarification in regard to some grossly inaccurate statements that have been made in the press.”

Instead, the statement cited Bass Pro Shops’ concerns about sharing a parking lot, which the county planned to install and maintain as a public lot. It would also have been used in a park-and-ride program for I-20 motorists, Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson said.

“…In the process of our negotiations for the site, there were several instances where there was a lack of disclosure, the least of which involved the development of a park-and-ride program. We were led to believe this would be a parking lot for Bass Pro Shops’ customers,” the statement said.

It suggested that customers continue to buy from Bass Pro Shops’ catalogs, Web site or its other stores “in the region.”

Columbia County Development Authority Director Robbie Bennett said the company was almost at the end of its 90-day due diligence phase before notifying the county on the decision to back out of the development. The county offered Bass Pro Shops several incentives that included installation and maintenance of a public parking lot to be used by I-20 motorists as a park-and-ride program. Since the project was never developed, the county didn’t lose out on any funding set aside for those incentives, Bennett said.

“The way I look at it is you win some, you lose some,” he said. “We’ll keep moving forward.”

McKnight, however, invested about $12,000 in legal fees and a “line of sight” study to ensure that developers wouldn’t build anything higher than the Bass Pro Shops sign. The costs came within the due diligence period so McKnight said he won’t be able to recoup that money.

“If they just told us they weren’t coming, we wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “We’re not in the business to lose money.”

The addition of the store was expected to greatly boost sales tax revenue in Columbia County as well as create 200-plus jobs.

Bass Pro Shops backed out of a similar deal in 2011. The company announced in 2008 that it would erect a 100,000-square-foot store in Richmond County, off Riverwatch Parkway and I-20, but pulled out because of the economy.

Instead of a Bass Pro Shops store, that area will get a 42,000-square-foot Cabela’s as was announced on July 25.

Some in Augusta were sad to hear that Bass Pro had backed out. Richmond County Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Johnson said he was disappointed but not surprised to hear what happened.

“For the most part it was one of those things that I kind of felt in the beginning ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ because we were told the same thing as Columbia County,” he said.

Johnson said a large retailer locating in Evans would have had a positive economic impact on Richmond and the surrounding counties, as well. But with Cabela’s locating in Augusta, the region will still reap some benefits.

“It’s a good opportunity and a good day for Augusta and the region,” Johnson said about Cabela’s. “It’s not a competition. Some people look at it that way, but me personally, I’m about bringing the counties together.”

As for McKnight’s bare 52-acre development where the outpost store was once slated, the developer said he’s confident that his company will announce future tenants before year’s end.

“Right now, we’re just sort of trying to put everything back together,” he said. “We’re still talking to some people. I think some people a lot more reliable than Bass Pro Shops.”

McKnight, however, was wary about disclosing further information on potential companies to locate on his site.

“I just don’t want to give the people around here false hope again,” McKnight said. “It’s just disappointing.”

Messages left for Bass Pro Shops representatives were not returned Tuesday or Wednesday.

Statement from Bass Pro Shops

To the citizens of Augusta,

Like many of you, we at Bass Pro Shops are disappointed that we are unable to move forward with plans to build a retail store at the intersection of I-20 and Flowing Wells Road in Columbia County to serve the area's outdoor enthusiasts.

However, in an effort to maintain our reputation with our local customers, we feel it's imperative to respond to and provide clarification in regard to some grossly inaccurate statements that have been made in the press.

For example, in the process of our negotiations for the site, there were several instances where there was a lack of disclosure, the least of which involved the development of a park-and-ride program.  We were led to believe this would be a parking lot for Bass Pro Shops' customers.

There were also allegations that we did not proceed due to competitive issues within the market. Frankly, we face competition in most markets, but we continue to thrive in spite of it because of our exceptional employees and the outstanding products and services we provide.

Moreover, the communities we serve hold us in high esteem because of our emphasis on conservation and education and our long established record of never closing a store once we have opened, other than relocating to a larger store as we did in Atlanta many years ago.

Again, while we are disappointed that we will not be opening a retail location in Augusta at this time, we value our customers in the market and are accessible to them via our website, catalogs and other Bass Pro Shops stores in the region.

Comments (14) Add comment
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countyman
23391
Points
countyman 10/03/13 - 12:06 am
3
9
Retail

''Johnson said a large retailer locating in Evans would have had a positive economic impact on Richmond and the surrounding counties, as well. But with Cabela’s locating in Augusta, the region will still reap some benefits.''

The Bass Pro was planned for Martinez, and not Evans... The Carmax & Gateway residential community are located in West Augusta, and the Bass Pro site was in Martinez.. Bass Pro will be returning to Augusta sometime in the future, and the 69 acre site at Walton Way Ext/I-20 wouldn't surprise me.

Maybe the Carmax area FKA Wheeler Town Park should concentrate on attracting Gander Mountain/Northern Toole like prior to the recession.. REI is coming sooner or later too, but I don't know if they would choose that specific area.

The Cabela's under construction in North Richmond is definitely a huge boost to the economy. Bass Pro is pretty much located all over the US. Cabela's only has one existing southeastern location in Louisville, and three other's moving along(Greenville, Atlanta, Augusta).

countyman
23391
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countyman 10/02/13 - 11:29 pm
3
6
Sales tax

The leaders in Columbia County are really disappointed in the loss of sales tax..

Richmond County would have benefited due to the property being located in both counties, but Columbia County had the potential anchor(Bass Pro) of the site.

I'm not saying Bass Pro would have been the anchor forever though, because there's empty tracts of land nearby. Whether it's off Scott Nixon Memorial in RC, or the small portion of Pleasant Home in CC going towards Flowing Wells.

justputtin
1837
Points
justputtin 10/02/13 - 11:30 pm
6
1
BPS afraid?

Who said that? And how does he know? He must think he's Johnny Carson with the turbin! I miss Johnny.....:(

LeConteSkier
636
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LeConteSkier 10/03/13 - 01:08 am
4
3
Cabela's rocks! REI will soon

Cabela's rocks! REI will soon call Augusta home. Heck with Bass Pro! Why shop with an unreliable company as them. Embrace the stores here. If Bass Pro is this indecisive then they would likely close a new store without thinking twice leaving a rustic elephant for years to come. Be glad they didn't come and the land is still suitable for another tenant. It could have been worst like the half built hotel at Stonecrest on the way to Atlanta leaving the land unusable.

Just My Opinion
7271
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Just My Opinion 10/03/13 - 04:46 am
5
1
Been to Bass Pro Shop

Been to Bass Pro Shop before....not overly impressed. I mean, it's a sporting goods store...that's it. It's got a bunch of fancy setups and displays, but so what? I'm just as happy dealing with the folks at Academy Sports and, soon, Cabela's.

Riverman1
118007
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Riverman1 10/03/13 - 05:33 am
6
3
Don't Devour Our Own

This whole concept of recruiting retail stores of any kind with financial incentives is suspect. We have great sporting good stores paying their way in Columbia County and West Augusta. The Sports Academy and others shouldn't have to face government subsidized competition that takes from their business. Subsidizing private concerns should only be done with businesses that create jobs that are not siphoning retail business in the area.

Don't worry, West Augusta and Columbia County will do well. They are booming together as one. I shop at Costco now and look forward to the Cabela's since I'm an outdoorsman on the river.

ColCo
1179
Points
ColCo 10/03/13 - 05:56 am
1
4
Where is this store?

Where is this Sports Academy people keep referring to? I have been to Academy Sports many, many times, but am still trying to find Sports Academy.

Riverman1
118007
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Riverman1 10/03/13 - 06:27 am
6
0
ColCo..heh

ColCo, you are right, heh. It is Academy Sports, but that's an awkward name and many reverse it...but you knew that.

soapy_725
45346
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soapy_725 10/03/13 - 06:34 am
0
0
XX Cross must have asked for something not privy to public.
Unpublished

XX Cross must have asked for something not privy to public.

soapy_725
45346
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soapy_725 10/03/13 - 06:36 am
0
0
McKnight can build some Section 8 projects in that field. It
Unpublished

can look like the view coming into NYC from the north.

csrareader
1289
Points
csrareader 10/03/13 - 07:03 am
5
0
“We’re still talking to some

“We’re still talking to some people. I think some people a lot more reliable than Bass Pro Shops.”

Looks like Mr. McKnight went to the Ron Cross School of Public Relations.

JRC2024
14517
Points
JRC2024 10/03/13 - 07:54 am
2
0
Mason will not miss the

Mason will not miss the $12000.00 or even a $120000.00

David Parker
7925
Points
David Parker 10/03/13 - 08:57 am
4
1
Why do people take the angle

Why do people take the angle that we NEED them. Retailers are not a necessity. It's the reverse. Take some pride. If Bass Pro can't hang in the CSRA, that's on them. Their current and anticipated impact to the area has not amounted to a hill of beans even though they have been courting Augusta since last decade.

Cut them off and let them know that any proposals in the future will be significantly less "juicy" than this sweetheart.

nocnoc
67000
Points
nocnoc 10/03/13 - 09:04 am
2
0
Fool US once shame on you,

But, now BASS PRO has given a toe hold to a MAJOR and VIABLE competitor.

Will this be a decision they will be regarding at Corporate?

bdouglas
7054
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bdouglas 10/03/13 - 09:03 am
3
0
I think the Park-and-Ride

I think the Park-and-Ride program tie-in was honestly just something that was thrown in to get the feds to pay for part of that infrastructure cost that Col Co agreed to. I can't fathom why it would be a legitimate reason for BPS to worry about the project after finding out out about it. Have you seen how many people actually USE those around here? You might see 5 cars in one of those kind of lots on a good day. Not like it would be detrimental to their parking spaces at the store.

grinder48
2304
Points
grinder48 10/03/13 - 09:25 am
0
0
CC Caught Being Sleazy
Unpublished

Columbia County tried to pull a bait & switch on the paking lot deal and got caught. I never cared for Ron Cross. When I lived in CC it would tick me off to get my water bill that included a glossy newletter about CC with Cross' smiling face on front ... came across as political advertising for Cross, paid for by CC taxpayers. And seemed to me that Cross used his political position to benefit his development activities. Cross' statement about BP being afraid sounds very childish; he got caught trying to pull a fast one and comes up with a stupid, childish statement.

GnipGnop
13612
Points
GnipGnop 10/03/13 - 10:48 am
7
1
Sports Academy

is just North of North Richmond County...but if you see a Five Guys on your left you went to far....

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