Sand Springs Says Wal-Mart Is Both Helping And Hampering Growth

Tuesday, November 21st 2006, 10:39 am
By: News On 6

A Tulsa County community says Wal-Mart is both helping and hampering its growth. Sand Springs says a new Wal-Mart Supercenter is thriving, but it has been unable to bring in a new retailer to another property once owned by the retail giant.

News on 6 reporter Chris Wright says city officials feel that on one side of town, Wal-Mart has been great for the city, while in south Sand Springs, where a Wal-Mart once stood, they say the company has made opening a new business almost impossible.

A parking lot, once filled with Wal-Mart shoppers, sits vacant, just as it has since the retail giant left here several years ago. The property, which is part of a shopping center, was sold to a local developer, but with certain "non-compete" restrictions. No discount stores, wholesale stores, grocery stores or pharmacies, are allowed to move in.

Sand Springs city manager Doug Enevoldsen says those restrictions have made finding a tenant difficult. "People in south Sand Springs would like to see that particular facility occupied again, and if there are some restrictions on the property at present, it may be time to relax those."

The city says it does not necessarily have a problem with Wal-Mart. After closing its store in south Sand Springs, it opened a Supercenter on the other side of the Arkansas River a year ago, and business is flourishing. Still, Enevoldsen says the potential of the old Wal-Mart property is being wasted. "Amidst all this success, there is still an opportunity for more success in our community.'

And the stores that have remained in the south Sand Springs shopping center have struggled. Jennifer Marshall, a manager at Payless Shoes, says a number of neighboring businesses have closed, and business is slow for everyone. “People move in and out of the shopping center all the time, because they can't bring in the sales they need to bring in."

Sand Springs city officials believe the shopping center can thrive again, and are confident the property will attract a major retailer. But for that to happen, they will first have to get by Wal-Mart.

The News on 6 received an e-mail from Wal-Mart Tuesday. The company says it no longer uses the non compete clause when its stores close, and it is open to discussing lifting the restrictions if that would help the current owner.