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- 2012 - December - 21st -

Bass Pro Shops opening in 2014 in St. Johns County

by Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

Bass Pro Shops, based in Springfield, Mo., announced Friday evening it will open a 104,000-square-foot Outdoor World store in St. Johns County.

It is expected to create 250 jobs. The store will open along Interstate 95, 17 miles south of I-10 at the new Florida 9B and I-95 interchange in North St. Johns County on a high-profile site owned by Gate Petroleum Co.

The store will be within a 40-acre area with a 14-acre lake that will be managed for trophy bass and youth and community events.

The store will open in the second quarter of 2014 subject to completion of the new interchange and supporting road system.

St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick said Saturday county representatives have been talking with Bass Pro Shops since late summer and have had preliminary discussions. He anticipates discussions about county incentives would “start in earnest” soon after the first of the year.

He said Bass Pro Shops also had considered a site at the World Commerce Center near the World Golf Village.

He did not have an estimate about the cost of the project or the potential county investment.

“There’s nothing specific at this point,” Wanchick said. He said he dealt with a Bass Pro Shops project in Fort Lauderdale and “we have the ability to put together a deal like that.”

Wanchick said when he director of strategic planning and growth management in Broward in the mid to late 1990s, Bass Pro Shops opened one of its first stores outside its home base in Springfield.

He said the development needed transportation infrastructure and also received other local and state incentives.

The St. Johns County store will be a free-standing building in a natural setting and feature complementary outdoor facilities, such as the fishing area, he said.

Wanchick said incentives could include infrastructure assistance, a sales tax refund, tax-increment financing or other programs. “It has to be mutually beneficial,” he said.

The Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund program also is a possibility, but is a state-approved program, he said. That program is funded 80 percent by the state and 20 percent by the local government in which a project is developed. It refunds a portion of paid taxes in return for job creation.

Wanchick said he was keeping the St. Johns County Commission informed of the development.

Wanchick said Bass Pro Shops has had conversations with state officials about the completion of Florida 9B and extending it and a ramp to provide access to its site.

The property is west of I-95 and south of Race Track Road, he said.

The Florida Department of Transportation website, sr9b.com, explains the Florida 9B roadway will connect southern Duval County with northern St. Johns County.

The website did not mention a specific project, such as Bass Pro Shops.

“From a land-use planning perspective and an economic-development perspective, it is an exciting project to attract other retail and office development in the county,” Wanchick said.

Wanchick cited the St. Johns County Commission’s renewed emphasis on economic development.

“It’s continuing a trend we expect to see in the future,” he said.

St. Johns County is part of the JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development division of the JAX Chamber.

“The announcement is wonderful news for Northeast Florida,” said JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot.

“Bass Pro Shops has looked at the area for some time and wanted a premier location on I-95. They have found it in St. Johns County,” he said.

JAXUSA Partnership covers Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

“Bass Pro Shops is a prestigious retailer which will find a strong following in our region because of a major interest in outdoor sports,” Mallot said.

Bass Pro Shops said that in addition to being the world’s leading supplier of premium fishing tackle, it also is the country’s leading supplier of hunting gear and the top retailer of Bowtech and PSE archery equipment.

Bass Pro Shops also manufactures and sells the world’s leading brands of fishing boats — Tracker, Nitro, SunTracker, Tahoe, Grizzly and Mako factory direct to fishermen.

Bass Pro Shops offers equipment and clothing for hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, camping, outdoor cooking and more. A gift and nature center will provide a wide variety of outdoor-related items, from lamps and dishes to bird feeders and furniture, it said.

“We’re excited to open a store in St. Johns County on I-95 — the ‘Gateway to Florida,’” said Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris in a statement.

“The new Bass Pro Shops Jacksonville Outdoor World will be an outdoor destination store that offers a broad selection of high quality gear at Bass Pro Shops’ low prices and famous friendly, expert service to area sportsmen and women as well as the millions of visitors to the Jacksonville area each year,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful site and we believe we have found the absolute best retail location in the Jacksonville area to build a new super outdoor store. We are very grateful for the support of everyone at Gate Petroleum, St. Johns County and Gov. Rick Scott for this wonderful opportunity,” Morris said.

Gate Petroleum Chairman and founder Herbert Peyton said in the news release he was “extremely pleased to have a partner such as Bass Pro Shops choose to make a Gate property their first entry into the North Florida market.”

“We are proud to have Johnny Morris, the owner of Bass Pro Shops, bring the hard fought success of his family-owned business to our community. This is a hopeful sign for the economy of our area,” Peyton said.

In the news release, St. Johns County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson said, “We were all encouraged by the long-awaited 9B/I-95 interchange being awarded this past August by the FDOT.”

“And now there could be no better example of the economic opportunities this major transportation improvement can bring to our state than this announcement by Bass Pro Shops,” she said.

“We are honored to welcome such a prestigious corporate partner to St. Johns County. Bass Pro’s reputation for providing quality products and services will be a perfect fit for our community, their presence will enhance environmental tourism, and their programs will serve as a strong stewardship resource for our region,” she said.

Stevenson said Saturday the project has not come before the board.

“This is a big opportunity for St. Johns County,” she said.

“I know we are working on infrastructure to the site,” she said, calling that part the “biggest negotiation”

The store will initially generate about 250 jobs, the company said.

Bass Pro Shops expects to host more than 120 million people visiting its 77 stores and Tracker Marine Centers across America and Canada this year.

The average customer stays 2½ hours and drives an average distance of more than 50 miles, Bass Pro Shops said.

Bass Pro Shops said stores also have been announced for Tallahassee and Tampa as well as Anchorage, Ala.; Loveland and Colorado Springs, Colo.; Atlantic City, N.J.; Bristol and Memphis, Tenn.; Little Rock, Ark.; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Sayreville, N.J.

Speculation has circulated for at least 10 years that Bass Pro Shops was considering a Northeast Florida location.

It has Florida stores in Destin, Orlando, Fort Myers, Dania Beach (Fort Lauderdale), Miami and Islamorada. It will have nine stores in the state counting the new stores in Jacksonville, Tampa and Tallahassee.

Bass Pro Shops said that according to Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics, the Jacksonville Metropolitan Statistical Area has the fourth largest economy in the state and the 44th largest in the United States.

It said Jacksonville is the 55th largest metro area in the U.S.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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