Academy Sports opens in Rogers

Store returns big-box specialty retail option to NW Arkansas

Posted: August 27, 2010 at 4:23 a.m.

Academy Sports & Outdoors opens its new store in south Rogers today, bringing big-box sporting goods specialty retailing back to the northwest corner of the state.

The privately held company based in Katy, Texas, has more than 100 stores spread over 11 states, mostly in the Southeast. Regionally, it operates stores in Fort Smith; Little Rock; Sherwood; Joplin, Mo.; and Tulsa.

“There’s really nothing locally except the main company that’s based out of Bentonville,” said Sean Morgan, assistant manager of the new store at 3855 S. 26th St., just north of Pleasant Grove Road.

That “main company” refers to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which also sells sports and outdoors equipment and apparel, and has a supercenter just south of Pleasant Grove Road.

Also on that side of the road is an empty former Sportsman’s Warehouse store. The Utah-based company closed the store early last year.

That 50,000-square-foot building would not have accommodated the full line of products that Academy will stock, Morgan said. The new Academy store is more than 75,000 square feet.

Joe Schefe, store manager, said Thursday that preparations for today’s opening were going “amazingly well, the associates are excited.” The store employs 145.

Schefe, who first started working at Academy in Houston in 1997, previously was store manager in Fort Smith.

The Rogers store includesa computerized driving range designed to help golfers improve their swings, as well as an archery range to test potential purchases.

Morgan said the company has had its eye on the region for a while but wanted to make sure it found the right location. The region offers not only abundant outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing, which he called “bar none, among the best in the United States,” but it also has a huge sports fan base with the University of Arkansas atFayetteville, he said.

In addition to hunting, fishing and camping gear, the store carries many types of footwear and apparel as well as treadmills, weights, punching bags, basketballs, baseball and softball gloves, and other sporting equipment.

Raymond Burns, president and chief executive officer of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, saidthe region’s population has continued to grow despite the economic downturn of the past two years.

“It makes good business sense for them to look at an area like Northwest Arkansas,” he said.

Across Pleasant Grove Road, just south of the Wal-Mart Supercenter, Hank’s Fine Furniture of Sherwood is building a 91,200-square-foot store at a cost of about $10 million. When it opens, the Hank’s stores in Fayetteville and Bentonville will close.

“If this were a declining area, they obviously wouldn’t do that,” Burns said.

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Business, Pages 21 on 08/27/2010