Seattle has the Space Needle. Tacoma may soon have the Bass Pro tower.
The Missouri-based outdoor outfitter and sporting goods retailer has filed requests with the City of Tacoma to erect a 65-foot faux fire lookout tower just east of Interstate 5 to draw attention to its newest store, its first in the Pacific Northwest.
That timber-supported tower topped with a mock forest ranger abode will draw the attention of passing motorists to the store, according to the retailer. The new store is being built in a former Lowe’s Home Improvement Center in a strip shopping center south of South 72nd Street. The store is scheduled to open early next fall.
The tower’s framework will support two Bass Pro signs 21 feet long and 14 feet high facing the north and southbound lanes of I-5, according to the variance request submitted to the city.
Bass Pro is noted for its novel store features including super-sized aquariums stocked with native fish where fishing demonstrations are conducted (No hooks are used. No fish are harmed in the demonstrations, according to Bass Pro), undersea-themed in-store bowling alleys and comfort-food-serving restaurants.
Its lodge-like stores are major tourist attractions in many cities, so much so that many states offer large incentives to attract the retailer to their towns. In Connecticut recently, one city floated $22 million in low interest bonds to help pay the cost of building a Bass Pro store.
Bass Pro contends that the tower and its accompanying signs are needed to call attention to the location of its new store because the store is behind some pad-style retailers that are closer to the interstate.
“The parcel shape, size and location of our project as it relates to the roads, including the interstate, result in poor visibility. These factors are outside the control of Bass Pro Shops,” the retailer wrote in its variance application.
“The Bass Pro store is located at the back of the shopping center, limiting visibility of the building from the interstate. Both the curvature of the road and topography between the roadway and the shopping center reduce the time a motorist has to view the building from the roadway. Additionally, there are businesses located at the front of the shopping center blocking the view of Bass Pro. The small commercial development on the southeast corner of Hosmer and 80th Street blocks the view of motorists traveling northbound,” Bass Pro said in its application paperwork.
The ranger tower, tall as a six-story building, will be fabricated by Montana’s Pioneer Log Homes Inc., which has supplied the log interiors and exteriors of many Bass Pro stores throughout the country, the company said on its website. The concrete facade of the former home improvement center in Tacoma will be refaced with logs, according to drawings furnished by Bass Pro.
Pioneer specializes in large custom log structures for Western-themed homes and institutional buildings including churches and assembly buildings in historic cities, the company said.
In addition to the tower and its signs, Bass Pro has asked city approval to erect more and larger signs on the building’s exterior than is normally allowed.
“Our proposed signage indicates an exceptional effort to create visual harmony between the signs, structures, and other features of the property through the use of a consistent design theme. The distinctive architectural design and finishes in conjunction with their unique signage give Bass Pro a recognizable image. They are able to achieve this uniform look while tailoring each store to the region in which it is located. Bass Pro is a large scale commercial project with a unique retail use. It is considered a destination retailer that attracts tourists and out-of-town visitors,” the retailer said in its request.
Public comments on the retailer’s application are due at Tacoma’s Planning and Development Services office, 747 Market Street, Room 345, Tacoma, WA 98402 by April 29.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663