Clifton Park reviews Bass Pro, Cabela’s project
Times Union, August 17, 2023 — Town officials expect the planning board to vote next month on a proposal to open a large Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s store on Clifton Park Center Road.
The Nebraska-based company plans to open the nearly 77,000-square-foot store next year at the former Northstar Chevrolet car dealership at 400 Clifton Park Center Road, near the Northway and south of Route 146. It would have 282 parking spaces and be the outdoor gear giant’s fourth New York store, offering goods for fishing, hunting, camping, hiking and other outdoor activities. The nearest other retailer is in the Utica area. The store will also feature an outdoor boat display and service area.
In 2016, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s merged in a $4.5 billion deal. Cabela’s was once considered for a shopping plaza near the Times Union’s offices in Colonie, but it was never built.
Town Planning Director John Scavo said the company plans to submit an updated plan for consideration at one of the planning board’s two September meetings. Board members may propose further changes after an initial vote, or give a final vote on the proposal, he said. Demolition at the site is expected to begin this fall.
“We’ve been engaging them with conversations to address outstanding issues,” Scavo said. “They’ve verbally conveyed to us that they’re looking to get on for a September meeting agenda, but they have not submitted yet.”
Over the past three months, Clifton Park’s technical advisory committee, which includes planning board members, met with the retailer’s representatives to discuss the plan. Town staff have also been working with the company to include a site traffic study and a more detailed stormwater management design to the proposal, Scavo said.
Scavo noted how a major storm hit the area a little more than a decade ago. “That car parking lot, where the store was, water was up to those car doors,” he said in a June committee meeting. “A rare event, but it may be once every decade. We just want to make sure that we accommodate that type of storm event.”
Other changes to the proposal include adding side windows to a part of the building, various design materials and proper lighting along a sidewalk in front of the property, Scavo said.
The plan’s traffic study estimates the store would generate 132 new vehicle trips in afternoon peak hours and 285 on Saturdays. The consulting firm recommended adding a traffic signal at a nearby intersection where Wendy’s, Olive Garden, Starbucks and the new Chick fil-A are located.
But during a recent committee meeting, the study drew concerns as a town engineer questioned why another Route 146 intersection near Chick fil-A wasn’t included in the study, while another argued it didn’t consider drawing visitors from areas without Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s or those en route to the Adirondacks.
John Nemjo, founder of Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company in Saratoga Springs and Old Forge, said he isn’t concerned about the national outdoor retailers, highlighting his company’s dedicated following since it was founded in 1993.
“Everybody associated with Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company lives locally here,” Nemjo said. “Whatever we bring home, we spend right here.”
Even so, he said he sees a “supersaturation” of outdoor stores closer to Albany.
“You’ve got (Eastern Mountain Sports), you’ve got L.L. Bean, you’ve got two Dick’s stores within five miles of each other,” Nemjo said. “I think there might be a little bit more worry on the end of some of the stores that are already down there, maybe one or two of these stores that are coming in. Is there really that much more business to be had here?”
But Amanda Powers, spokesperson at the Retail Council of New York State trade association, called the timing perfect for outdoor chains to move to the Capital Region. Forbes reported that the U.S. sporting goods industry averaged a 6.7 percent growth rate between 2018 and 2023, with a notable spike from 2020 to 2021.
“We’ve spoken to so many retailers all across the state who tell us all the time that COVID is really what gave outdoor sports that push,” Powers said. “You’ve got natural resources here, you’ve got lakes, stocked ponds, hiking trails, biking trails. It just makes sense for companies to come here.”
“People’s attitudes changed after COVID, somewhat permanently, where you have some people now working, for example, longer hours from home, which means they’d have shorter commutes, or fewer days to commute to the office, which gives them more time to be outside and be with their family,” she said.