After nearly two years of anticipation, it’s finally here.
Outdoor retailer Bass Pro Shops opened its 62nd location to much fanfare Wednesday at the Copper Ridge at Northgate development in north Colorado Springs.
At the 6 p.m. grand opening of the state’s second Outdoor World, notable figures including company founder Johnny Morris, Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson and Santa Claus showed up along with a crowd of shoppers to tour the sprawling 120,000-square-foot store.
The new location has all of the traditional Bass Pro trimmings — hundreds of taxidermy specimens, lodge-like decor and all the bullets money can buy — as well as a few exclusive features. The building, which sits southeast of Interstate 25 and Northgate Boulevard, also houses Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl and Grill, a 15,000-square-foot, aquatically themed restaurant complete with 12-lane bowling alley, bar and billiards room.
“It’s quite an attraction at other stores, and it’s guaranteed to be one here as well,” said General Manager Chris Koeninger, who came from another location near Tulsa, Okla., to get the store up and running.
The westward-facing main entrance, which opens to panoramic views of the Front Range, is landscaped with cobblestone sidewalks and a gushing waterfall that flows into small streams and ponds below. The interior is also accented with nature-inspired installations, including large murals of Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, and a 27,000-gallon aquarium fed by waterfall.
“One of the things that I think sets us apart from other retailers in the area, as well as our own stores, is the amount of imagery we have,” Koeninger said. “Our waterfall that flows into the aquarium was actually inspired by Seven Falls, and we have over a dozen species of fish that are all native to Colorado.”
Koeninger said that all of the aesthetic and interactive elements of the store are examples of what makes Bass Pro Shops not just retail stores, but tourist destinations. During the summer months, children are offered courses in campfire building, archery and animal tracking. Each winter the section of the sales floor typically devoted to TRACKER Boats becomes Santa’s Wonderland, a place for kids to have their pictures taken and have fun while parents shop.
“We do things the way that our founder thinks our guests would want them,” Koeninger said about the privately owned company. “We stand firm in that belief, and that is what people are going to see when they come into our store. They’re going to see those major differences, and they’re going to see that this is a family-owned company.”
The Missouri-based company hired around 425 workers in the Springs — a large chunk of the 4,000 employees developer Gary Erickson envisions for his 2-million-square-foot Copper Ridge plans. Both declined to put a number on economic impact or construction costs.
“We know we are the finest outdoor specialty retailer on the planet, and our goal is to focus on that,” Koeninger said. “We’ll focus on what we can do for our guests, and the rest will take care of itself.”
The ambitious development was at first slow to build steam, but the pressure has started rising with the opening of its first and only anchor store.
Work at the 200-acre site began with approval by Colorado Springs City Council in 2010, which designated the site as an urban-renewal area, making tax increment financing available to Erickson.
Until the deal with Bass Pro was announced last February, Erickson had difficulty finding a big-box establishment with which to entice other tenants.
But he said that the complex is starting to fill out.
Currently in the works are businesses including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Baldwin Liquors, Interstate Batteries, Loaf ’N Jug, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, CB & Potts, Colorado Grand Resort and Hotel, and Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse and Tavern, which is slated for a January opening.
Also moving in next to Bass Pro is a 30,000-square-foot facility, Magnum Shooting, which Erickson said is expected to open in summer 2014.
During early stages in the site’s development, much focus was on plans to extend the Powers Boulevard corridor from Colorado 83 to Interstate 25, giving the center more access to traffic flow. Plans for the project are still far out — such projects are low priority until 2035, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation website — and the developer said there is no timeline for the extension.
However, City Council voted 8-1 on Oct. 22 in favor of dedicating a 1-percent annual sales tax increment of Copper Ridge revenue over the next 25 years to the development, which is projected to assist in the project.
“It’s just like any other road project — you’ve got to get the seed money before things really get rolling,” Erickson said.