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Bass Pro's Oklahoma City store meeting sales goals

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Bass Pro Shops' 10-month-old store is meeting or exceeding sales goals set under an agreement that paved the way for the city to fund construction of the $19 million building, company and city officials said.

The Springfield, Mo.-based company pays the city $449,000 a year in rent, after operating expenses are deducted, for the store, but part of the rationale for the city's investment was the expectation that the business would provide hefty increases in city sales tax revenue.

While the city and the privately held sporting goods company would not reveal sales tax figures for Bass Pro, the store contributed to an overall sales tax picture that has seen revenue grow 3.76 percent between July 2003 and June 2004.

Retail sales make up about half of the city's sales tax collections, said Jane Abraham, management and budget specialist for the city.

City councilors who voted in favor of paying for the 110,000-square-foot Bass Pro building, complete with wall murals and a giant tank of bass, believe the store has spurred economic development in the Bricktown entertainment district.

``We needed something to kick-start development in Bricktown,'' said Mayor Mick Cornett, who was a councilor at the time of the vote.

Bass Pro acts as a tourist destination, drawing visitors in the same way Oklahoma RedHawks baseball games do, Cornett said.

He and other councilors attribute recent downtown development to Bass Pro. Two hotels, a movie theater, restaurants and condominiums are planned for the Bricktown area.

``I think Bass Pro is the engine that drove all of this development to take place,'' said council member Larry McAtee. ``It has far exceeded my expectations.''

Opening new stores is a big part of Bass Pro's growth, said Larry Whiteley, Bass Pro spokesman.

As part of its deal with Oklahoma City, Bass Pro agreed not to build another store within 75 miles. In March, the company announced it would build a store in Broken Arrow, about 110 miles from Bricktown. Whiteley does not expect the stores to hurt each other's sales.

The company has 23 stores, and it will open three more in November and about 14 next year, he said.

``We're not the big bad guy coming in and running people out of business,'' he said. ``We get more people involved in the outdoors.''
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