Bass Pro store to cast off on schedule in Clarksville Indoor ranges, falls among lures By Bill Wolfe firstname.lastname@example.org The Courier-Journal The giraffe lay face down on the floor. An elephant stood frozen in mid-stride. Lions, water buffalo, zebras and a wart hog looked on in glassy-eyed silence. But things were far from tranquil at River Falls Mall in Clarksville, Ind. There are only weeks to go before the opening of the 280,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, where hundreds of stuffed beasts will decorate the aisles and walls. Construction crews hammered, sawed and welded while forklifts scurried about and store workers lined shelves with hunting supplies, camping equipment, fishing lures and other sports gear. Despite the clamor, Bass Pro will open on schedule Nov. 14, said general manager Mike Benningfield. A 50,000-gallon aquarium will hold 268 fish. Water will cascade over a three-story indoor falls and down a rocky-bottomed stream traversing the store. Attractions such as golf and archery ranges, a big-game-hunt laser arcade and a seafood restaurant will be open for business. It will be Bass Pro's second-largest store, just behind a 300,000-square-foot store in Springfield, Mo., the company's home city. Almost all the major construction is done, Benningfield said. The rest is "just cosmetic stuff" that "goes pretty quick," he said. "You can see progress every day." About 475 people will work in the store, including 175 at the restaurant, The Islamorada Fish Co. The restaurant expects to buy a liquor license Nov. 2 in Indianapolis at an auction supervised by the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission. Plans for the Bass Pro store were announced in 2004. Construction has been under way for about 1½ years and required tearing out most of the interior of the mall, which was built in 1990 and had featured an indoor amusement park on its upper level. Bass Pro wanted to locate in the Louisville area and was attracted to Clarksville by the mall building, which had a number of vacancies and was available for redevelopment, said Scott Harvey, Bass Pro's promotions manager. The megastore will consume most of the building, though a couple of tenants remain. Bass Pro stores sell thousands of items for hunting, fishing, bird-watching, boating, camping and other outdoor activities. A typical Bass Pro store draws 3 million to 4 million people a year, and the chain has high hopes for its Clarksville location. "We knew that we could service Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, part of Ohio -- so we can draw from a large area," Benningfield said. The store will be about 36,000 square feet larger than the chain's location in Cincinnati and about 30,000 square feet bigger than its Nashville, Tenn., store. Bass Pro has 27 stores and will open five more by mid-December, including the one in Clarksville, Benningfield said. Another 13 are to open next year. None will be as large as the Clarksville store. Judy Antle of Shepherdsville, Ky., who fishes professionally in the Women's Bass Fishing Association, said she looks forward to the store's opening. "There's no doubt in my mind it will be well received. It'll be very successful," said Antle, who will represent one of her sponsors, electric boat-motor maker MotorGuide, at the store's opening. "I feel sorry for the local bait and tackle stores," said Antle, who worries that smaller shops will not be able to compete. Two Louisville outdoor-sports equipment stores said they don't expect to be crushed by Bass Pro. "We don't care one way or another," said Pete Bowen, who owns Bullfrog Creek -- The Fishing Store at 4155 Bardstown Road. "You can't worry about who else is coming to town." More than half of Bullfrog Creek's business is in "high-end" fly fishing, said Bowen, who believes Bass Pro "won't compete with us at all in that arena." "We're always respectful of any competition, but the truth of the matter is, we do a lot of different things that they don't do -- and vice versa," said Don Burch, co-owner of Quest Outdoors, which has stores on Frankfort Avenue and at The Summit off Brownsboro Road in eastern Jefferson County. "We're really more of a specialty backpacking shop, and they certainly have some of those items, but they really do a great job with hunting and fishing -- that's their big expertise." "We actually do co-exist" with smaller stores, Bennington said. "A lot of it has to do with hours of operation, convenience and things like that." Bass Pro will be open from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays, and the only live bait for sale will be fishing worms, he said. "We're not open at 5 a.m., when a lot of people are going fishing," Bennington said. And local shops benefit from loyal customers who will "continue to use them for a lot of their products. They may come here to buy some things too, but there's plenty of business for everybody." Larry Drake, president of Derby City Fly Fishers, said he expects the new store to do well. "If any sportsman comes within the area and has a little extra time, they'll go over there, just to check out and see what they've got, and what the latest is," he said. He expects a huge turnout for opening day. Crowds will be so dense "you probably won't be able to stir the people in there," said Drake, who will be at the store promoting Derby City Fly Fishers. Bass Pro Shops has designated opening night as "conservation night, when we have all the conservation groups come in, set up booths, and we actually raise money for those groups," Bennington said. The store will donate 10 percent of its sales that night to one of the nonprofit groups, Bennington said. The organization hasn't been selected yet, he said.