Bass Pro Shops grand opening in Brandon
The long-awaited grand opening of the first Bass Pro Shops in the Tampa Bay area was a holiday of sorts for local outdoorsmen and women.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Brandon store on Palm River Road Wednesday night, thousands of customers got their first glimpse of the mecca for all things outdoors.
Shoppers got a chance to hob nob with a few big names like former Buccaneer Mike Alstott and three-time PGA Tour Champ Boo Weekley, to name a few.
You'd think it was tailgate outside a Bucs game. Some waited hours. Others waited even longer.
"I've been waiting for Bass Pro to open forever," said Wade Osborne excitedly. "I'm sick and tired of driving to Orlando."
The parking lot was packed for Wednesday's grand opening and so were surrounding roads for miles.
The business in Brandon brings 130,000 square feet of the great outdoors, inside.
"If you need a camo recliner, I've got it," said General Manager Ronnie Cheeks.
It's a one-stop shop for hunters, anglers, campers, and even art lovers with murals showcasing Florida's natural beauty.
"You'll see the Hillsborough River in there, Little Manatee, that's all very exciting, you'll see Tampa Bay, the Skyway Bridge, we are having a lot of fun with our local community in this store," Cheeks said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife even helped fill this an 11,000 gallon freshwater aquarium with fish from Tampa Bay waterways.
"You've got channel catfish, white catfish, brown bullhead catfish, bow fin, Florida gar, longnose gar, blue gill, red ear sunfish, red breast sunfish, black crappy, hybrid sunshine bass which is a mix of white bass and striped bass, and the number one sport fish in the state, the Florida large mouth bass," added Paul Thomas with FWC.
If you're more into eating fish than catching them, there's also Islamorada Fish Company.
As Commissioner Ken Hagan puts it, it's an unbelievable day for Hillsborough County.
"This entire complex is creating about 3,000 jobs and will result in about $3,000,000 a year in sales and property taxes generated from a piece of land that a couple years ago generated $800 a year," Hagan said.
For every dollar spent during the Wednesday night event, Bass Pro shops will donate 50 cents to the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation.
The new Bass Pro Shops will continue celebrations Thursday and through the weekend with special interactive exhibits, and experts who can talk about fishing, hunting, and boating.
Here are some freebies Bass Pro Shops says you can look forward to: