Tacoma’s newest tower will be topped off this week.
The tower is no skyscraper, no communications antenna or civic memorial. Instead the latest exclamation point on the skyline is a forest fire tower look-alike designed to attract customers to Tacoma’s newest retail landmark-to-be, the Pacific Northwest’s first Bass Pro store.
The 142,000-square-foot store is scheduled for a ceremonial opening Wednesday evening, Oct. 22, beginning at 6:30 at 7905 S. Hosmer St.
The tower’s timber legs will support not only a mock top-level observation outlook, but also Bass Pro signs visible to the traffic along Interstate 5 near South 72nd Street.
The tower being erected Thursday by three cranes won’t be quite as towering as Bass Pro Shops originally intended. The Springfield, Missouri-based outdoor retailer originally had sought to build a 65-foot-tall tower, but Peter Huffman, the city of Tacoma’s director of planning and development services, limited the business to a 55-foot structure.
Huffman said existing codes would have limited the tower’s size to 45 feet, the maximum building height allowed in the shopping center area, but he allowed the chain to build the tower 10 feet higher under several conditions.
Those conditions included extensive landscaping and street furniture at the tower’s base creating a pedestrian-friendly minipark. Huffman’s conditions also required the retailer to post educational signs regarding the history and usage of fire lookout towers in the forests of the Northwest.
In its application for a variance to build the tower, Bass Pro Shops noted that the store’s location on the back side of the shopping center parking lot plus several buildings erected between the store and the street gave the store’s traditional signs mounted on the facade less visibility.
The company argued that the store is likely to become a regional shopping destination as Bass Pro Shops have become in other cities, and a vertical landmark such as the fire tower sign would help visitors locate the store.
A crew of craftspeople have refashioned the steel and concrete site that once was home to a Lowe’s store into a national park lodge-like building.
The structure’s face is covered with logs and shingles and the interior includes pools stocked with fish, a roaring waterfall, a towering stone fireplace and a 16-lane bowling alley with ball returns that resemble the open mouths of sharks and alligators.
Part of the entertainment retail experience will be a restaurant, Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl and Grill Cafe, where patrons will dine under replica of a Great White shark.
The store will stock fishing and hunting goods for Northwest outdoor enthusiasts, camping supplies, boats and some 70,000 sportswear items.
The retailer said its workforce will total some 350 employees.