Spartanburg County hooks Bass Pro Shops
By Trevor Anderson
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 3:38 p.m.
Bass Pro Shops
Spartanburg County caught a trophy on Wednesday.
Local leaders joined with Bass Pro Shops officials to announce the company's new “Mega Outdoor Store” during a news conference in front of about 200 people at the Chapman Cultural Center in downtown.
The Missouri-based outdoor retailer said it will build the store on 75 acres currently owned by Spartanburg-based Pacolet Milliken Enterprises Inc. at the intersection of Interstate 85 and Highway 101, across the street from BMW Manufacturing Co.
Bass Pro Shops said the store represents an investment in the tens of millions and will create about 250 new jobs. It will be 120,000-square feet and will serve as the focal point of a mixed-use development that will include retail, hotels and restaurants.
The store is expected to be completed in 2016.
“The economic impact of Bass Pro Shops won't just be a ripple,” said County Councilman David Britt. “It will be like dropping a meteorite in a swimming pool.”
Mike Dunham, director of real estate for Bass Pro Shops, said the store will be the size of two football fields.
He said it will feature the company's Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill, a nautical-themed center in the store that has 12 bowling lanes that give customers the chance to feel like they are bowling under the ocean. The grill will give shoppers a place to recharge their batteries while dining on appetizers, sandwiches, salads and burgers.
It will be the company's third store in South Carolina, including a location in Myrtle Beach and another in North Charleston that is expected to open in 2015.
“We are very excited to be here,” Dunham said. “This is a fantastic market, full of hunters and fishermen who are passionate about the outdoors. We have been focused on this area for years. It always seemed like we couldn't find the right location… We're going to put something together (for Spartanburg) that will be really cool and really special.”
Local officials have been courting Bass Pro Shops for about seven years.
In 2006, Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed legislation passed by the state legislature that gave Bass Pro Shops' competitor Nebraska-based Cabela's a break on sales and income taxes for a proposed store in North Charleston.
The legislature ultimately overrode the veto. Sanford continued his bid to block incentives when it was revealed that local leaders were trying to lure a large retailer, eventually identified as Bass Pro Shops, to anchor the retail portion of a large development proposed near I-85 and Highway 14.
Sanford held a series of news conferences at small outdoor retail shops in the Upstate, where he vowed to fight giving “extraordinary retail establishments” a 50 percent refund on sales taxes for 15 years to offset infrastructure costs.
The former governor's veto was overridden a second time in 2007.
On April 3, Cabela's opened a new 100,000-square-foot store off Woodruff Road in Greenville County.
Dunham said Bass Pro Shops' looked at several sites in Spartanburg County over the years, but the company was never able to get all of the pieces to come together.
“The stars just kind of aligned for this store,” he said. “It was the right size site in the right location… It was meant to be.”
Britt said the company qualifies for state incentives. The county has agreed to a 6 percent fee in lieu of taxes for 20 years and to put the company in a multi-county industrial park.
The store is expected to bring in visitors from across the region and beyond.
“It's a unique shopping experience that you just can't explain,” Britt said. “We get excited when we talk about projects. But there has never been one like this. This one has the potential to (positively) affect everyone in the county.”
The property is the former site of Spartanburg-based textile giant Milliken & Co.'s Armitage Plant, named after the late Norman Armitage, a company executive who competed in six Olympics.
In 2009, Pacolet Milliken removed the old 163,000-square-foot plant that closed in 1985 and spruced up the property. The company also bought the Spinx station's property and had the whole site certified under the state's Textile Communities Revitalization Act.
“We saw that the site was more valuable for future use without the building,” said John Montgomery, vice president of real estate for Pacolet Milliken. “We're very fortunate to have had the resources to improve this site… We were impressed by Bass Pro Shops' plans and felt they would be good stewards of this property. I think Mr. (Roger) Milliken would have been proud.”
Bass Pro Shops said more than 80,000 vehicles pass by the site each day. The company said its average customer drives 50 or more miles to shop, staying over two hours.
Britt called the announcement a “triple crown” for the county, which has already seen two $1 billion deals announced this year. Those deals include Tokyo-based Toray Industries Inc.'s new carbon fiber plant in Moore and BMW Manufacturing Co.'s expansion to increase production to 450,000 vehicles annually and to build the new X7. The three projects combined are expected to create over 1,500 jobs.
Dunham said the company has 85 stores and Tracker Marine Centers in the U.S. and Canada. The Spartanburg store will be number 86 on the list.
Local leaders said they are elated about what the store will mean for tourism in the county, especially with visitors flocking to Tyger River Park and soon Upward Sports' new complex off Highway 29 near Wellford.
“I travel all over the country and if there is a Bass Pro where I am, I'm going in there,” said County Council Chairman Jeff Horton. “I love this store. My wife loves this store. The difference is that when you go into one and grab one of the guys in the green shirt, you're going to get a level of customer service and expertise that you don't get anywhere else.”
Bass Pro Shops said its stores feature lodge-like exteriors and outdoor-themed interiors that include massive log and rock work, large indoor aquariums stocked with native fish species, wildlife mounts and exhibits that pay tribute to the region's outdoor heritage.
Dunham said the Spartanburg store will be loaded with local flavor.
“That's the great thing about (Bass Pro Shops),” Dunham said. “No two stores are alike. Each one is independently designed to honor the region… You can bet this one will be unique.”
For more information, visit: www.basspro.com.
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