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DEAL EXPECTED ON BASS PRO STORE
PATAKI DUE IN BUFFALO MONDAY
$123 MILLION PROJECT KEY TO REVITALIZING WATERFRONT

Gov. George E. Pataki is expected to come to Buffalo on Monday morning for an official announcement that Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World indeed will be bringing a mammoth sporting goods complex to downtown Buffalo.

An official announcement about the project -- whose price tag is now $123 million -- would cap a 3 1/2 -year campaign at the local, state and national levels to bring a major waterfront attraction to the foot of Main Street and the Cobblestone District.

The Missouri-based retailer would recover more than half of its investment from the public sector to renovate the former Memorial Auditorium complex on the waterfront and develop its surroundings.

"Nothing has really changed in terms of the numbers that have been talked about in the past," a local government source close to the negotiations said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bass Pro has been looking to start construction in early 2005 and open in late 2006. The project would include a Great Lakes-themed museum, hotel and restaurants.

A state official in Albany confirmed Wednesday evening that an official announcement will be made here Monday with the governor attending.

Bass Pro is expected to spend a minimum of $57 million on the project. The $66 million public sector incentives would be as follows:

$31 million from the federal government for an intermodal transportation hub and parking ramp.

$21 million from the state, from money originally allocated for the Adelphia Communications operations center that was never built at Washington and Scott streets.

$14 million from the city and county, to donate Memorial Auditorium, gut it and prepare it for renovation as a Bass Pro shop.

"The details that were worked out in the last few weeks had to do with parking issues," the local government source added.

A key component of the agreement would be the demolition of the Gen. William J. Donovan State Office Building across Main Street from the Aud to make room for a parking garage and intermodal transportation hub.

A new off-ramp from the Niagara Thruway is part of the plan.

Bass Pro Shops President Jim Hagale has said that the Aud site at the foot of Main Street would be suitable for the Bass Pro shop as long as it was supplemented with a hotel, restaurants, stores and a Great Lakes museum of history.

The project gained a major boost recently when Congress expanded the federal business incentives program. The new HUD Renewal Communities Act triples the space in Buffalo that would be eligible for incentives and added the Cobblestone District.

"We did some very aggressive lobbying," Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said at the time. "It's a tool to help Bass Pro, but also other investors interested in the inner harbor."

Masiello could not be reached to comment Wednesday.

Six months ago the Empire State Development Corp. offered an incentives package of up to $80 million to lure Bass Pro Shops to Buffalo. A proposed "memorandum of understanding" was drafted but many details remained unsettled.

The Aud conversion is expected to produce a 150,000-square-foot sporting goods store, twice the size of the Galyan's sporting goods store in Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga.

City officials hope Bass Pro's trademark interactive ambience would draw as many tourists as it would shoppers. Bass Pro Shops in other regions have huge fishing tanks that let anglers try out equipment, shooting ranges for gun enthusiasts and in-store golf ranges.

e-mail: acardinale@buffnews.com and slinstedt@buffnews.com

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