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Bass Pro Shops backs out of Columbia County deal

Posted: October 2, 2013 - 8:00am

Bass Pro Shops has cancelled its plan to build a store in Columbia County, officials announced Tuesday.

Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the company informed county officials on Friday that it was backing out of the plan announced in July to build a 50,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops Outpost on Mason McKnight Jr. Park­way, near the intersection of In­terstate 20 and Flowing Wells Road.

Cross said company officials said they didn’t think the Augusta market was big enough for that store and one being built by its competitor, Cabela’s Inc.

Cabela’s announced on July 25 – the day after Bass Pro Shops’ announcement – that it would construct a 42,000-square-foot store near Costco at the Village at Riverwatch commercial development.

“Bass Pro Shops is afraid of Ca­bela’s and won’t be coming to Co­lum­bia County,” Cross said. “A contract was signed, but they decided it wasn’t in their interest to proceed with it. I think we have learned they are not really honorable people.”

County Administrator Scott John­son said a few months ago that Bass Pro Shops officials seemed eager to make a deal and asked for few
incentives.

“They basically came with their hats in their hands,” he said.

The deal worked out with the county, McKnight Properties and the Columbia County Development Authority provided that Bass Pro Shops would purchase eight acres from McKnight and donate six to the county. In turn, the county would install and maintain a public parking lot, which was also to be used as a park-and-ride program for I-20 motorists, Johnson said.

The store was expected to provide jobs for more than 200 people and create a big boost to county sales tax revenues. Negotiations and planning took about eight months of intense work, but it all began to unravel after the Cabela’s announcement, officials said.

Johnson said it soon became evident that Bass Pro Shops was getting cold feet. He said company officials were slow to provide details and continued to say they were in a “due diligence” period of the contract until Friday.

“We got them on a conference call on Friday and that’s when they said they weren’t coming,” Johnson said.

This is the second time in five years that Bass Pro Shops has pulled out of an announced deal. In 2008, it announced it was going to build a store in Richmond County along River Watch Parkway. Those plans never got off the ground. In 2011, the sporting goods chain placed its Augusta plans, and other potential stores across the nation, on hold because of the economy.

Calls to Bass Pro Shops and McKnight Properties were not returned Tuesday evening.

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