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MAYOR CONFIDENT BASS PRO WILL SPARK REVIVAL
EFFORT TO LAND DEAL TOOK OVER 3 YEARS

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, who for years sought to lure Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World to downtown Buffalo, spoke gleefully on Thursday about the store's potential to invigorate the waterfront and spur spin-off development.

"There's been a lot of talk. There's been a lot of speculation. I'm glad it's finally going to come to fruition," Masiello said.

A state official confirmed that Gov. George E. Pataki would be in Buffalo Monday to announce that the old Memorial Auditorium would be converted into a mammoth sporting goods complex. Masiello said he was told by state officials to be prepared for an announcement sometime next week.

The campaign to bring a major waterfront attraction to the foot of Main Street and the Cobblestone District has been more than three years in the making.

The Bass Pro deal is expected to cost $123 million, including $66 million in local, state and federal tax dollars.

It won't be finalized until all parties involved -- the City of Buffalo, Erie County, New York State, the federal government and Bass Pro -- sign a "memorandum of understanding" that spells out their obligations, Masiello said.

"I don't think anything's been signed. I think that's what will happen Monday," he said.

Masiello said he was confident Bass Pro would draw tourists and spawn other attractions, drumming up renewed interest in downtown. "This is the first time in a long time we get new money and new people in downtown."

Masiello said he didn't fully appreciate the impact of Bass Pro until visiting the company's flagship store in Springfield, Mo., and seeing its impact on the economy there.

In Auburn, Cayuga County, where Bass Pro recently built a much smaller store, "they went into basically a vacant mall and now all the other stores are filled," the mayor said. "That's why this isn't your same-old, same-old type of retail. This isn't just another Kaufmann's or Kmart."

The deal calls for the city and county to fork over $14 million toward the gutting and preparation of Memorial Auditorium for renovation. Masiello declined on Thursday to comment on where that money would come from but said he would discuss it fully when the deal is announced officially.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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