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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Bass Pro Shops Brings Big Expectations, Big Changes to Silverton

2 November 2004

If nothing else, Las Vegas' ratio of stuffed game animals to residents is about to increase exponentially.

But the backers of this city's first Bass Pro Shops have much loftier goals for their new 165,000-square-foot extravaganza of sporting goods and equipment, most notably expanding the city's already rich assortment of "destination retail" offerings.

Based in Springfield, Mo., Bass Pro Shops' more than 20 U.S. locations are part store, part tourist attraction.

Company research has shown customer visits last an average of three to four hours, thanks to a super-Wal-Mart-sized selection of merchandise mixed with rushing waterfalls, interactive experiences and dozens of dioramas that include giraffes, lions and other animals.

"It's definitely a destination site," Bob Winkler, the store's assistant general manager, said during a Monday preview tour.

Bass Pro's location on Industrial Road next to the Silverton won't open until the evening of Nov. 15, but many of its 200 employees were already busy stocking shelves with fishing, hunting and camping equipment; shoes; clothing; golf gear; and even a few boats. General Manager Ron Rupert said the early merchandising efforts serve a practical function, as well.

"Where we don't have merchandise, they put an animal," he joked of Bass Pro's myriad taxidermic displays.

Other amenities include murals of Mount Charleston, the Mojave desert and the Grand Canyon; an indoor rifle and pistol range; a rock climbing wall; golf simulators and a mineshaft-like elevator. Each helps entertain visitors, thereby increasing their willingness to stay -- and spend, Winkler explained.

The privately held Bass Pro Shops does not disclose sales figures for its stores, but Winkler said business here should exceed most others in the chain based on this city's strong retailing component and an absence of nearby stores.

Las Vegas is Bass Pro Shops' first location in the West; its nearest sister store is in Houston, a nearly 1,500 mile drive. The store's presence should triple customer traffic at the Silverton, David Krause, the hotel-casino's marketing director, said.

"Those people are going to have to eat, drink and play" before or after shopping, said Krause, who expects Bass Pro will initially attract more than 4 million visitors per year. Many will be Southern California motorists, who will be hard-pressed to miss seeing the properties while entering or leaving the Las Vegas Valley on Interstate 15.

In anticipation of that growth, Silverton will next Monday open a 35,000-square-foot casino addition, doubling its gaming area to 1,500 machines and 40 table games. The new wing, which connects Bass Pro's western entrance by way of a replicated Grand Canyon riverbed, also features a massive mermaid-themed bar with live underwater shows.

The new wing and Bass Pro store cost approximately $120 million, Krause said; Bass Pro will lease its space from Silverton.

Silverton has in recent months also upgraded several older restaurants and bars, as well as its interior and exterior appearance. The property, which now resembles an Adirondack ski lodge, could soon expand further.

"It's likely we'll grow from 300 rooms (today) to 3,000 rooms in the next three years," said Krause, who said about 80 percent of Silverton's clients are locals due to its small room inventory.

The hotel-casino will on Wednesday unveil its new light-emitting diode marquee and accompanying name change to the Silverton Casino Hotel Lodge.

Ed Roski, a Los Angeles-based developer whose privately held Majestic Realty owns that city's Staples Center and portions of its Lakers and Kings pro sports franchises, controls the Silverton and about 100 nearby acres near Blue Diamond Road and Interstate 15.

Majestic wants to expand in Las Vegas after Silverton increased its revenue by approximately 30 percent in each of the past two years, Krause said.