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Dick's will anchor Brandon mall's new $50-million wing

The sporting goods store has another site in development in a Pasco County project.

By MARK ALBRIGHT
Published January 11, 2006


TAMPA - Dick's Sporting Goods will be anchoring a $50-million expansion of the Westfield Brandon mall that will include space for up to 20 specialty stores and at least two sit-down restaurants.

The groundbreaking is today for the 170-store mall's 150,000-square-foot wing that will jut into the parking lot west of the mall's center court after it opens in March 2007.

The news comes as a blitz of retail development intensifies on the rapidly growing Interstate 75 corridor east and north of Tampa.

Developers building a second Dick's outlet about 25 miles north of Brandon in the Groves of Wesley Chapel on Tuesday said they added a joint venture partner with deep pockets. Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors, the Boston investment arm of MassMutual Financial Group, put up cash for a 50-50 partnership. The Groves' developers at Echo Real Estate are promising a spring groundbreaking for their 800,000-square-foot first phase that includes an 18-screen Cobb Theater, Best Buy, Michael's, PetSmart and Ross Stores.

They plan $100-million worth of retail development on the 126-acre Pasco County site.

"This means we have a serious partner that believes in the site and the retailers we have assembled," said William Krahe, president of Echo, which closed on the property in November.

Westfield Brandon officials have made no secret for two years that an addition was being planned, but declined to name any other tenants lining up for space. Virtually all of the stores are chains or units of chains found in bay area malls. At 987,000 square feet, the Brandon mall will end up as big as the region's other major properties - Countryside, International Plaza, Tyrone, University and WestShore Plaza - that are 1.2-million square feet.

"Right now we have stores lined up to get space in here, so it's not like we have to go out and find someone," said mall manager David Josker. "A lot has changed about Brandon in the 10 years since this mall opened. The area has become more affluent and we want to serve the needs of this community."

The mall will spend several million dollars updating the look, lighting and furniture of its food court and center court.

It is known the mall had been talking with Old Navy and is trying to bulk up its selection of career wear for men and women and home decor. The only home furnishings store is Bombay Company. The sit-down restaurants, priced at $15 to $20 a meal for dinner, will be added around a landscaped outdoor-oriented entrance accented with fountains.

The arrival of Dick's heightens competition among so-called sports equipment superstores in the Tampa Bay area. Longtime industry leader Sports Authority had the niche to itself in the area since Tampa-based JumboSports collapsed in liquidation several years ago. Nationally, the market was saturated after the go-go growth days of licensed athletic wear peaked and slumped several years ago. Dick's, based in Pittsburgh, and Sports Authority of Englewood, Colo., survived and became rival industry consolidators.

Dick's edged ahead of Sports Authority in sales in 2005 after acquiring Gaylan's, one of the big remaining superstore chains with 48 stores mostly in the Midwest. The company entered Florida in Jacksonville last year. This year, Dick's plans to open 40 stores nationally.

Dick's markets itself as the more "authentic" version of the sporting goods superstore. That's partly because 58 percent of its sales is sports equipment rather than apparel and footwear. The first retail chain to staff its golf department with PGA pros, Dick's has 173 PGA members on its 255-store payroll. Typical stores have golf simulators, an indoor archery range and hardwood and synthetic track surfaces for testing out athletic shoes. Its hunting and fishing department is themed to look like a sportsman's lodge.

"We like to say everything we sell is authentic, including apparel and footwear, because it's designed to be used by athletes and outdoor enthusiasts," said Jeff Hennion, Dick's vice president of marketing.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or 727 893-8252.

[Last modified January 11, 2006, 00:40:10]


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