The sporting life

In the next two years, northern Nevada could become the outdoor sports retail capital of the world.

Three big players Cabela's, Scheels, and Bass Pro Sports plan to build mega-stores in the Reno-Sparks market, adding more than a half-million square feet of sporting and outdoor retail space.

Although pairs of the retailers have gone head to head in other markets, this is the only place in the country where all three superstores will be located in one region.

So why are the big guys flocking to northern Nevada?

"It's a great crossroads for people who love the outdoors," says Cabela's retail spokesman James Powell. "It's an outdoor person's paradise. You have so much you can do."

Cabela's plans a 150,000-square-foot outdoor gear store, scheduled to open in 2007 adjacent to Boomtown on Interstate 80.

Scheels chairman and CEO Steve Scheel says this market has been on his company's radar screen for three years. Scheels plans to open a 235,000-square-foot sporting goods store its biggest yet in spring 2008 at The Legends at Sparks Marina, a proposed 1.35 million-square-foot retail and entertainment development at Interstate 80 and Sparks Boulevard. RED Development LLC of Kansas City is developing the project and will announce tenants for the project Tuesday.

Scheel says the region's high number of golf courses, the kayaking course on the Truckee River and proximity to Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe are attractive. In addition the retailer looks for locations with four distinct seasons because it stocks sporting goods and outdoor gear for all 12 months of the year.

Bass Pro Shops looks at a variety of location factors, including the number of hunting and fishing licenses, variety of nearby outdoor activities and the amount of catalog orders placed from an area. Northern Nevada scores high in all those, says Larry Whiteley, the retailer's manager of corporate public relations.

Bass Pro Shops plans to open an Outdoor World superstore in 2007 or 2008 in conjunction with Station Casinos' proposed hotel and casino at Mount Rose Highway and Highway 395. The size hasn't been determined, but the company's other superstores range from 180,000 to 330,000 square feet.

If all the plans come to fruition, an outdoor sports superstore will be located at each major entrance to the city. But can the region support all three?

"I really don't think it's too much," Collier's International associate retail broker Shawn Smith says. "Reno's done a good job of diversifying. This helps situate us on the map as an outdoor destination and adventure place."

"That's a lot of square footage," says Gary Johnson, senior vice president of Alliance Commercial Real Estate Services in Reno. "I am very surprised. But these guys do their homework and feel comfortable with it."

He says Bass Pro Shops' relationship with Station Casinos will be an advantage. "That could be a home run," he says. Scheels is a good operator, he says, although it may face challenges going up against both Cabela's, which has a strong catalog business, and Bass Pro Shops, which has stores nationwide and strong catalog sales.

Scheel says his store has performed well in markets where Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's is located, and he predicted the three stores together will create an even bigger draw, the same way a group of car dealers attracts more shoppers than one or two dealers. "We look forward to the opportunity," he says.

Powell of Cabela's says this is a growing market and there's room for more than one big player.

"The more the merrier to a certain extent," he says. "At some point you reach a saturation point, but we think we'll do fine. We feel we're well positioned to succeed and thrive in a competitive environment."

Says Whiteley of Bass Pro Shops: "We do our thing and don't worry about anyone else. We're the original outdoor destination retailer. We've done it longer than anybody."

The stores will draw most of their customers from outside of northern Nevada. Scheel says his company's stores typically draw 3.5 to 4 million people a year, and 70 percent are from out of the area. Cabela's projects that a third to half of its customers will be coming from surrounding states. Both those retailers say I-80 traffic will be a boon to business.

All the retailers feature entertainment-style attractions in their stores and carry outdoor sports gear and equipment, but each has its own flavor.

Founded in 1902 as a general merchandise and hardware store, Scheels added sporting goods to the mix and opened its first All Sports Superstore in Grand Forks, N.D., in 1989. Today it's a 22-store operation in seven states. The superstores feature a collection of specialty boutiques, including golf, running, sportswear, bike, ski, whitewater, fishing and gun and hunting shops. Special attractions will include an operating Ferris wheel, aquariums, shooting galleries and simulators where customers can test their skills. The store will also include a restaurant, Starbucks and other amenities.

Founded in 1961 in Sidney, Neb., Cabela's will carry hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, boating and wildlife-watching gear as well as outdoor clothing and gifts. The store will feature a mountain replica with museum-quality animal displays, a walk-through freshwater aquarium, restaurant, art gallery, gun library, shooting gallery and indoor archery range.

Bass Pro Shops opened its first store in 1972 in Springfield, Mo., and has since added more than 30 others offering hunting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, camping and other outdoor equipment and clothing.

The superstores feature laser arcades, climbing walls, archery ranges, fine gun rooms, NASCAR shops and other attractions, and they offer free weekly outdoor skills workshops to the public.


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