Though the deal to bring a Bass Pro Shops destination to Atlantic City's retail outlets isn't a sure thing, tourism officials said the proposal alone could spark interest among investors to expand The Walk and diversify its offerings.
“Atlantic City’s retail segment has been a huge success despite the downturn in the economy, and The Walk has done a tremendous part of that business,” said Jeff Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority. “This is not a signed, sealed and delivered deal, but nevertheless, I’m thrilled. Just having Bass Pro Shops show interest in Atlantic City says a lot to the investment community that this is a great place to do business.”
Vasser said the agency promotes attractions based on visitors’ interests through its website and visitor information centers, so it would list Bass Pro Shops as an outdoor activity to attract that type of tourist to the store.
“From the visitors’ perspective, these stores are destinations in themselves, and that alone creates an opportunity for us to draw more visitors that are interested in outdoor activities,” Vasser said. “We already offer things like birdwatching and kayaking, and we know Bass Pro Shops would provide apparel, equipment and services for them. If it comes to Atlantic City, we would make sure everybody interested in outdoors is going to know about that store.”
Vasser said the site for the 70,000-square-foot store, proposed by The Cordish Cos., is a prime spot on Atlantic Avenue to target those tourists, since it is adjacent to the city’s convention center, where multiple outdoor trade shows and expos are held each year.
“One event we’re having this week is an outdoor and biker expo, and something like Bass Pro Shops is huge for them. When the conventioneers are finished at the show, all they would have to do is walk outside to see it and visit it,” Vasser said. “This retailer would definitely play a bigger role in showing Atlantic City is friendly to the outdoor market.”
Jeff Guaracino, a spokesman for the Atlantic City Alliance, said a destination like Bass Pro Shops would not only encourage more tourism — since the company’s 58 stores draw more than 113 million visitors in total each year — but it would also “reshape Atlantic City’s image,” which is a primary mission for the nonprofit marketing group.
“No matter where you go, shopping is always a popular activity for travelers, and we’re really lucky Atlantic City already has a great shopping district,” Guaracino said. “Any additional retail opportunities — especially ones with a massive following like Bass Pro Shops — is great for us and yet another indication of nongaming businesses seeing Atlantic City as a future opportunity to make money.”
Though Guaracino said the ACA is “not the marketing firm for a particular business” like Bass Pro Shops, he noted the “Do AC” campaign would help “connect the dots for visitors” and “look to shine a spotlight on the new attraction, like we do with Steel Pier,” if the deal goes through.