Mayor Brent Lambert said it was “the biggest thing to ever happen in East Ridge.”
On a beautiful Thursday morning, Lambert gathered with dozens of local and state dignitaries _ and hundreds and hundreds of customers lining up waiting to spend their money _ to officially cut the opening the Bass Pro Shops.
Lambert spoke to those gathered about the vision that former mayor Mike Steele had back in 2010 to develop the area around Exit 1 to bring new businesses to East Ridge and essentially reinvent the commercial district of the city.
“Without (Steele’s) vision and forethought, we wouldn’t be standing here,” Lambert said.
Lambert detailed the intricacies of the city buying surplus land from the State of Tennessee; the coordination with the Tennessee Department of Transportation; the cooperation of state legislators in terms of the Border Region Act; and the efforts of Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.
“There were an amazing number of moving parts,” he said. “If any one of those moving parts failed the whole project would have failed.”
Mayor Coppinger gave accolades to the work of the City Council and developers Matt and Ethan Wood and John Healy. He noted that East Ridge is the second largest city in Hamilton County and that Bass Pro and the surrounding development of Jordan Crossing created or will create hundreds of jobs and provide additional tax revenue to the county and specifically its school system.
“This shows what you can do when we all work together,” Mayor Coppinger said.
Jerron Ritchie, the manager of the Bass Pro shop, said he was excited that Bass Pro had located in East Ridge and that he was pleased to have gotten to know Mayor Lambert and members of the City Council, who were all in attendance with their spouses.
“I want Bass Pro to be the foundation of a long-term development in this city,” Ritchie said.
He said that Wednesday night’s Grand Opening was fun and good for Bass Pro, “but I want the city to win, too.”
Hunderds of people formed a line waiting for the dignitaries to conclude their comments so they could go inside the 85,000 square-foot mecca for outdoorsmen. While they patiently waited for the conclusion of the ceremonies, the crowd was entertained by the local band “No Big Deal.”
The Grand Opening will continue through the weekend with special giveaways and promotions, officials said. One city official said that he expected as many as 80,000 people to come through the city shopping at Bass Pro during the four-day Grand Opening.
And this retail anchor is only the beginning of what will become the larger retail development of Jordan Crossing.
Developers Matt Wood and Healy were among those in attendance. Healy said that within the next 30 days there should be an announcement about a new motel being built adjacent to the Bass Pro Shop. The pair, along with a third principal, Ethan Wood, have been diligently working to secure commitments from other retailers and restaurants to become a part of the economic development in the area.