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Aug. 10-Academy Sports & Outdoors will open a 77, 000-square-foot store at Franklin Avenue and New Road, in the vacant Kmart building, in 2006. It will be the second-largest Academy operated by the Houston-based chain, smaller only than a new store in Corpus Christi.
Negotiations had dragged on for more than a year between Academy and Levcor Inc., a Houston real estate development company that now owns the nearly 200, 000-square-foot structure that once housed Super Kmart.
Carl Main, a spokesman in Academy's marketing department, confirmed Tuesday that a lease has been struck.
'I just found out about it this morning, ' said Main, speaking by phone from company headquarters in Katy, Texas. 'We've got 82 stores, and the Waco store is going to be one of our bigger ones. We have an 81, 000-square-foot store in Corpus Christi that opened last month, so Waco's will be the second-largest.'
Main said the Waco store will open in late spring or early summer 2006. The typical Academy store employs between 125 and 140 people, said Main, but Waco's likely will hire more than that.
'We love the Waco market. It's the kind of community we wanted to be in, and we've been trying for two or three years, ' said Main. 'You have a lot of hunting, fishing and team sports.'
Some Waco residents now make the half-hour drive to Temple, where Academy already operates a store. Waco attorney Coke Mills is among them. He's pleased the chain has decided to open a store in Waco.
'Unfortunately, it places temptation in my path, ' he said with a laugh.
Mills said he likes Academy for its fishing and grilling equipment and outdoor clothing.
'That's one of the things I like about Academy: they have a wide range of merchandise, ' Mills said, adding: 'A lot of people from Central Texas come to Waco for other shopping purposes, and I think Academy will be one of the things they look at while they're here. I'm glad to see that.'
Milton 'Bubba' Smith oversees development for AIG Baker, the Birmingham, Ala., company that is creating Central Texas Marketplace at Interstate 35 and West Loop 340.
That center is home to such retailers as Kohl's, Belk, Books-A-Million and The Sports Authority. It would appear to be a competitor for the growing retail environment at Franklin Avenue and New Road, where such stores as Wal-Mart, PETsMART and Goody's Family Clothing do business and where Academy soon will set up shop.
But Smith said he sees Academy as an asset, not a threat.
'I think it is great for Waco, ' he said in an e-mail to the Tribune-Herald . 'As stated previously, the delivery of Central Texas Marketplace helped fuel the fire of putting Waco on the map for retailers. Academy's announcement proves the theory. This will become crystal clear when we start announcing retailers for our Phase 3 very soon.'
Smith has said he soon will release the names of more retailers who want to locate in the marketplace.
Leo Bradshaw, who began selling sporting goods at Cogdell's in Waco in 1954 and still buys and sells used guns, said he's pleased but surprised to hear that Academy will open a store here.
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