Ever hear of a $215 million catfish? After yesterday, the city of Memphis, Tenn., has.
Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, made a rare appearance at a construction kick-off ceremony June 21 for the company’s long-awaited Outdoor World retail store planned to open within Memphis’ iconic Pyramid, and he had an interesting fish tale to tell.
According to CommercialAppeal.com, Morris told the invitation-only crowd that included professional angler Bill Dance and Memphis Mayor A. C. Wharton that a 2005 fishing trip on the Mississippi River ultimately led to Bass Pro’s plans to put a store in the vacant former arena.
As the story goes, Morris was with Dance and Jack Emmitt, Bass Pro’s first fishing manager, when Morris said he would build a store within The Pyramid if they caught a 30-pound catfish.
“Sure enough, with about one hour to go, (Emmitt) got a bite and caught this catfish in the shadow of The Pyramid, and I said, ‘It’s a deal – we’re gonna do it,’” Morris said, according to the Web site.
Last year, the Memphis City Council approved a plan that allowed the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. to issue $215 million in bonds to fund the development project, which now includes a three-story hotel.
In 2010, Bass Pro Shops signed a 55-year lease with the city that garnered $30 million in construction funding assistance.
On June 15, the Springfield-based outdoor retailer, which has 58 stores in the U.S. and Canada, announced it had firm plans to build a store in Little Rock, Ark. The Outdoor World is expected to open by Christmas 2013.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Tommy Hodges, the developer of the 169-acre Gateway Town Center in Little Rock that will feature the anchor Bass Pro store. He declined to provide terms of the agreement with Bass Pro – which both parties state does not include public financing – saying only:
“We did some things for John; he did some things for us, and I’ll leave it at that.”
I neglected to ask if the negotiations took place on the Arkansas River.