ATLANTIC CITY — When Bass Pro Shops opens in Atlantic City — as soon as next fall — it will include more than an expansive selection of hunting, fishing and camping gear. The store, which is expected to employ at least 200 people, will also house elaborate aquariums featuring native New Jersey fish, a restaurant and a bowling alley. It will also have a boat showroom and host regular outdoor skills workshops and free community events, Bass Pro General Manager Aaron Frazier said Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony.
“Bass Pro is about mixing family entertainment and retail, and that's what you'll see in Atlantic City,” Frazier said. “We're researching New Jersey's history of conservation so you'll see things unique to New Jersey in this store.”
Tuesday's groundbreaking marked the first time details about the displays that will be housed in the 86,000 square foot store were released.
Inside the store that will be located at Atlantic and Missouri avenues will be Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill, a casual restaurant that features fish-themed bowling lanes. Officials said the store will also have a 170-space surface parking lot. Complaints about insufficient parking for Tanger Outlets The Walk spurred the development of a $30 million parking garage that opened at Fairmount and Mississippi avenues last year.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has devoted a $12.3 million loan to construction of the Bass Pro project. An additional $11 million over 11 years is expected as part of a tax abatement plan, and the land owned by CRDA that's being used for the project is assessed at $11 million, bringing the total public investment in the project to more than $34 million.
Bass Pro’s actual construction costs have not been released, but the $12.3 million loan provided by CRDA will be applied to those costs expected to be upward of $20 million, officials said.
Officials have thrown their support behind the project, repeatedly calling the retailer a “game-changer” for Atlantic City, a phrase that has often been used in recent years as CRDA has helped to fund non-gambling attractions Gov. Chris Christie has said should be a priority in the resort.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno was in Atlantic City on Tuesday for the groundbreaking ceremony that took place at the construction site inside a tent filled with faux geese and fish and mannequins of a family with fishing gear. Officials said the store will open between fall 2014 and spring 2015, with Guadagno pushing for the earlier opening date in her public remarks.
The store represents the fourth and final phase of planned development for Atlantic City’s outlet development known as The Walk. Baltimore-based developer David Cordish opened The Walk outlets in 2003 on CRDA-owned property. He later sold nearly all of the company’s interests to Tanger Factory Outlet Centers in a $199 million deal while maintaining development rights for the final phase.
The development agreement between CRDA and Cordish has been in place since 2002.
Blake Cordish, president of development for Cordish Co., recalled the beginning of The Walk development more than 10 years ago saying that many were skeptical of the plan to transform eight city blocks into a thriving shopping destination. Cordish said he believes Bass Pro will thrive along with the existing retail development, adding that there’s not a community in the country that wouldn’t be thrilled to have Bass Pro Shops move in.
The retailer has 65 stores in the United States that bring in 113 million visitors a year. On average, customers drive more than 50 miles to reach a Bass Pro Shops store.
A breakdown of how many of the 200 jobs at the Atlantic City store would be full-time was not immediately available, Frazier said.
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