By Clayton Park
DAYTONA BEACH — A cool, clear Thursday night in Daytona Beach witnessed the perfect alignment of retail stars with the opening of the Bass Pro Shops across the street from Daytona International Speedway on the eve of a new NASCAR season.
Looking at the throng of more than 1,000 customers, like himself, pouring into the outdoor gear-and-apparel store when it opened its doors shortly after 6:30 p.m., visiting snowbird Dan McCoy from New York summed up the scene, calling it “wild and woolly.”
By the end of the event, store officials said approximately 4,500 people had passed through its turnstiles, said International Speedway Corp. spokeswoman Gentry Baumline-Robinson.
The grand opening event featured live bluegrass music, performances by the Bethune-Cookman University cheerleading team as well as a Polynesian dance troupe, speeches, a ribbon-cutting and autograph sessions by a slew of celebrities including NASCAR stars and champions of various outdoor sports.
“This is our first time ever at a Bass Pro Shops store,” said Daytona Beach resident Rodney Logan, who turned out for the grand opening with his wife Nichole and their three children, ages 3 to 10. “It’s awesome. Looks like it’s got everything you could want for fishing.”
The Bass Pro Shops store is the second tenant to open at the One Daytona mixed-use complex under construction across from the Speedway. The development welcomed the 12-screen Cobb Daytona Luxury Theatres in December and is set to add restaurants, shops, hotels, entertainment venues and apartments over the next year.
“(Bass Pro Shops founder) John Morris had told us … he wanted this (store) to be very special and it really is,” ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy told The News-Journal. “It’s more than I ever could have dreamed.”
The 67,068-square-foot “Outpost” store employs nearly 170 workers and features extensive fishing, hunting, camping and archery departments and also sells a wide array of outdoor apparel and shoes, as well as other accessories. It also features hand-painted murals depicting nature scenes from the Daytona Beach area as well as a look at the history of the Speedway, and a two-story-tall rockery made to resemble a Florida sinkhole, complete with a 12,000-gallon aquarium stocked with fish native to the area.
Among those to turn out for the event were Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley, Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen.
“It’s incredible,” said Nancy Keefer, CEO of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, looking out at the big crowd.
Ormond Beach resident Cathleen Hayes was the first to stand in line, arriving at noon, six hours before the scheduled start of the grand opening festivities. She was joined minutes later by her friend, Peggy Freling, a visiting snowbird from New York who spends half of the year in Daytona Beach.
“We wanted to get the autographs of (NASCAR driver) Martin Truex Jr. and (legendary race team owner and 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee) Richard Childress,” Freling said.
“I’ve gone to a Bass Pro Shops in Daphne, Alabama,” said Hayes. “I like the fact that you see so much. It’s educational. We enjoyed the fact that you can see different nature scenes.”
Kenny Peicket, a visiting snowbird from Russell Springs, Kentucky, arrived to wait in line with his son, Kriz, 25, around 1 p.m. “We bass fish and crappie fish,” he said, adding, “We intend to spend $1,000 on fishing gear.”
The event, which went from 6 to 9 p.m., was billed as an “Evening for Conservation,” with 50 cents of every dollar spent donated by the store to benefit either the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Everglades Foundation or Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium.
Volunteers from the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet were also on hand to man an educational display inside the store as well as an outdoor booth near the entrance where it was selling soft drinks, with the proceeds benefiting the nonprofit organization.
“It’s a wonderful turnout and a great new facility,” said Michael Brothers, the Marine Science Center’s executive director, of the store. “It’s going to be a huge draw for this area. Being a fisherman, i know I’ll be frequenting this store a lot.”
“Thank you for being here tonight to help us celebrate the opening of this new Bass Pro Shops right here in Daytona Beach,” said Morris, who opened his first store 45 years ago in the back of his dad’s liquor store in Springfield, Missouri. The Daytona Beach store is the chain’s 81st Bass Pro Shops and 102nd location overall, including its marine centers. “You’re very lucky in Florida,” he told the audience. “We’re opening this store in the front door of the World Center of Racing and we’re also opening this store right in the heart of the world center for bass fishing.”
The grand opening festivities will continue through Sunday, including a boat show and prize giveaways to the first 200 people in line (age 18 and older) each day. The store hours will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
The store is at 1880 Checkered Flag Blvd., at the foot of the west International Speedway Boulevard pedestrian overpass.