Bass Pro Shops, a kind of “mega-tourist” destination, will likely be coming to Atlantic City as part of The Walk’s retail outlets.
A proposal by the Cordish Company to bring a 70,000-square-foot Bass store to Atlantic City got approval in a resolution passed Tuesday by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
CRDA also approved $12.8 million in financing for the $35 million Margaritaville expansion project planned for Resorts Casino Hotel, prompting board Chairman James Kehoe to call Tuesday a monumental day in terms of the city’s economic development.
“After touring the site, it was apparent that we were being offered the most high-profile location in the Atlantic City market,” Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris said. “The vast majority of all 33 million visitors to the city will pass directly by our new store.”
Bass Pro Shops operates 58 retail stores in 26 states and Canada, and customers are likely to stay inside a store for at least two and a half hours, viewing everything from aquariums to indoor boat showrooms and archery ranges. Customers of the fishing, hunting and camping equipment retailer drive more than 50 miles on average to get to the stores, according to Bass Pro Shops research.
The company expects to hire 150 people for its Atlantic City location.
The singular store, which will be located on Atlantic Avenue on a 4-acre parcel between Christopher Columbus Boulevard and Mississippi Avenue, will represent the only new store added to The Walk in its final phase under current plans, CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said. The CRDA owns the tax-exempt land, but the commercial development provides payment in lieu of taxes.
“When you talk about marketing horsepower, this a brand that has pull all over the county,” Palmieri said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for a destination retail facility.”
Referring to the Bass store as a destination is no exaggeration. A store in Hanover, Md. — the nearest location to Atlantic City — has a 23,000-gallon aquarium and hosts weekend fish feedings. A store in Harrisburg, Pa., has a 60,000-gallon aquarium, an arcade, an archery range and a NASCAR simulator. An 85,000-square-foot store in Auburn, N.Y., is so large that it accommodates tours of its wildlife displays, painted murals and antique equipment, the company’s website says.
While it’s not yet clear exactly what will be inside of the Atlantic City location, Bass Pro Shops confirmed there will be an expansive boat showroom featuring Tracker, Nitro, SunTracker, Tahoe, Grizzly and Mako boats built by Tracker Marine Group.
Construction could begin by spring 2013, and the store will open by late 2013 or spring of 2014, Bass Pro Shops said in a written statement.
The CRDA’s board on Tuesday passed a resolution allowing the agency to negotiate a financial agreement with Cordish Co. for the project. Developer David Cordish sold nearly all of the company’s interests in the earlier phases of The Walk to Tanger Factory Outlet Centers last year. But Baltimore-based Cordish retained the development rights for the fourth phase of the project planned at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway.
While the financial terms have not yet been settled, a tax abatement plan that would provide $11 million over 11 years has been discussed, officials said. The CRDA is also considering providing $12 million of the $18 million construction cost for the facility that could be two stories tall, the Palmieri said.
Asked why the company is choosing to go with a single retailer for the entire parcel, Ashley Miller, a spokeswoman for Cordish said Bass Pro Shops is the kind of “mega-tourist” destination that will draw visitors from throughout the Northeast.
“Additional major brand name outlet retailers would be a terrific option. That said, Bass Pro Shops is one of the great retailers in the world and would be a game-changer for Atlantic City,” Miller said.
David Cordish, who recently opened a $500 million casino outside of Baltimore, has said that he’s also interested in an Atlantic City casino. In June, company officials said they were working on plans for a mix of retail and entertainment attractions.
Cordish opened The Walk in 2003 with 18 stores. A second phase added 80 shops three years later and the third phase opening in 2011 added 12 stores.
CRDA also was presented a new study on Tuesday that said 455,000 customers could come to the city’s new Margaritaville complex at Resorts each year. Of them, 210,000 should be new visitors to the city, and 60 percent of the new visitors will come from out of state, said Cory Morowitz, of Morowitz Gaming Advisors, who presented the study on behalf of Resorts.
Resorts is also finalizing an agreement with the city to ensure that at least 20 percent of the 162 new jobs will go to Atlantic City residents, officials said.
On Tuesday, CRDA also took steps toward approving $887,000 for capital improvements to the north end of the Boardwalk between Oriental and Atlantic Avenues — a necessary step in eventual plans to extend the Boardwalk out to Gardener’s Basin, officials said. The authority also took steps toward approving $250,000 for the Greater Atlantic City Golf Association to expand its marketing efforts.
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