Gary Erickson doesn’t mince his words when he talks about his new Bass Pro Shops in North Gate that is set to open Nov. 14.
“It’s Disney World on steroids,” said Erickson with a grin, who is the owner of the Northgate Properties, LLC. “This will actually be the coolest thing ever in Colorado. Opening day will be fun for our town”
Erickson grew up in Colorado Springs (he is a 1973 graduate of Wasson High School) and has taken great pride as the city has grown and evolved. He and his company are likely to be a major reason why expansion to the north will likely set “Little London” on its ears.
“The average stay at a Bass Pro Shop is about 2 ½ hours,” Erickson said. “People will drive from Pueblo, south Denver, all around. Bass Pro is just a phenomenal magnet for destination retailing.
“Bass Pro showed me a graph of 120 million people who visited their 67 stores last year. That compares with Disney’s with 67 million. It’s just an incredible deal.”
In February, Erickson’s company signed a letter of intent to build the 120,000-square-foot store in the 200-acre Copper Ridge development near North Gate Boulevard and Interstate 25. The future extension of Powers Boulevard is to the south, Meadowgrass Drive and a future extension of Spectrum Loop is to the east, and the existing Western Museum of Mining and Industry sits to the west. Off in the distance is a perfect view of the Air Force Academy and Pikes Peak.
“When I took the Bass Pro Shops guys out here and showed them this spot, they didn’t hesitate to sign the lease,” Erickson said.
Erickson grins when he saunters through the construction zone. He is now beginning to see the fruits of months of hard work by hundreds of dedicated employees.
“We’re getting ready for the imagery team from Bass Pro to come in on Aug. 16,” Erickson said. “They come in and make this thing into a Disneyland experience. The interior finish of this building is about $20 million. That’s the level they take it to.
Bass Pro Shops is more than just a hunting, fishing and boating store. The shop also offers equipment and clothing for hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, bird watching, camping, outdoor cooking and more.
The Colorado Springs store will also have Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill, a combination of a 12-lane bowling alley with an under-the-ocean feel and a casual family dining restaurant. The North Gate location will also have a gift and nature center and a boat showroom, as well as a 28,000 gallon fish aquarium with six waterfalls flowing into it, along with a mountain and big horn sheep.
Erickson’s vision for the Copper Ridge development is lofty, yet realistic. Next spring, his company will break ground on 15 acres to the east side of Bass Pro Shops on a 400-room Grand Resort and Hotel and offices that will also house a 70,000-square foot indoor water park - the largest even in Colorado. The area will include residential units and other amenities in more than two million square feet of development. It should be open in spring 2015.
In coming years, a mall will be built that Erickson believes will rival Park Meadows Mall in Denver. Also, the completion of Powers Boulevard is expected. It will connect with Interstate 25 just south of the current North Gate exits. The ramp project will cost $1.5 billion, according to Erickson.
“When that three-mile stretch of Powers is finally built, it will be the No. 1 interchange this side of Denver,” Erickson said. “It’s completely designed. It’s shovel ready.”
Copper Ridge was designated as an urban renewal site in the spring of 2010 by the Colorado Springs City Council. It was viewed as a controversial decision at the time, mostly because the suburban-like, grassy area lacked decaying conditions that are usually typical of urban renewal projects.
The City Council and Erickson agreed that property and sales taxes generated by Copper Ridge would be set aside to fund the completion Powers Blvd. Powers currently ends at Highway 83.
Erickson’s Bass Pro Shops will generate at least 250 jobs. Erickson estimated that the entire development could generate as many as 4,000 jobs at build out.