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Published: Thursday, 8/30/2007

Construction under way on Bass Pro in Rossford

Ryan Ray Shanly, a worker for contractor Rudolph/Libbe, smooths cement for the store's foundation. Ryan Ray Shanly, a worker for contractor Rudolph/Libbe, smooths cement for the store's foundation.
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Nearly 15 years after a new transportation link created what has come to be known as the "golden triangle" in northern Wood County, developers and community officials hope to begin mining the mother lode.

The impetus is the start of work on a Bass Pro Shops outlet, a giant $50 million outdoor store that the owners predict will become a major local tourist draw.

The Springfield, Mo., sports retailer will hold a formal ground-breaking today at the site of the store that is to be completed in June.

With 150,000 square feet, it will be the size of 3 1/2 football fields, said spokesman Larry Whiteley.

It will be built around a theme, which will be selected in consultation with local people, that will reflect natural attributes or the history of northwest Ohio, Mr. Whiteley said. "About 37 percent of our stores are devoted to telling these stories, making them like museums."

Even more exciting to local business interests and economic development officials is the drawing power of Bass Pro Shops.

An average store attracts 3 million people a year, the spokesman said.

Officials in Rossford, where the store will be built, hope for a repeat of the miracle that occurred in Dundee, where the arrival of Bass Pro rival Cabela's turned the community into one of Michigan's top tourist attractions and spawned other retail and commercial development.

The Rossford site, dubbed the Crossroads of America by boosters, has been poised for such development ever since the early 1990s when transportation officials linked I-75, a major north-south route, with the Ohio Turnpike, a major east-west thoroughfare.

Despite a previous unsuccessful development attempt on the 600-acre site, officials believe that Bass Pro will be the spark that ignites the flame.

"We're optimistic," said Ed Ciecka, Rossford administrator.

"We are encouraged that Bass Pro made a large investment in the acreage. Their store goes on a 28-acre site. They bought 230 acres."

The chain plans to sell excess land, purchased for an average of $90,000 an acre, to restaurants, hotels, and other businesses seeking to capitalize on the Bass Pro store's expected popularity.

"They are very confident in the strength of that location," said Brian McMahon, president of Danberry National Ltd.

The commercial real estate agency has been hired to help Bass Pro market the property.

Negotiations are under way with two hotel operators and several restaurants and other retailers, Mr. McMahon said.

He declined to identify the parties. None of the Bass Pro land has been sold so far, however.

"Now that Bass Pro has started construction, the activity level will pick up," Mr. McMahon predicted.

Germano Bressan, a retail specialist with the Toledo office of Signature Associates, agreed.

"Until Bass Pro is halfway out of the ground, you won't see a lot of activity," he said.

However, developers are building a 98-room Hampton Inn & Suites at State Rte. 795 and the I-75 interchange.

The hotel is not on land purchased from Bass Pro.

Nearby land owners are optimistic. One parcel is being offered for nearly $1 million an acre, Mr. Bressan said.

But Mr. McMahon, of Danberry, said the land is unlikely to fetch that much.

So far, the most expensive land there has sold for about $400,000 an acre, he said.

A major selling point of the Golden Triangle is the number of vehicles that pass through the area.

Tom Blaha, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, put the number at 135,000 a day.

That's up 50 percent since the late 1990s, he said.

Contact Gary Pakulski at: gpakulski@theblade.com or 419-724-6082.

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