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Brown, Tobe visit Missouri to meet with Bass Pro execs

Mayor Byron W. Brown and Buffalo's development chief Richard M. Tobe traveled to Springfield, Mo., earlier this week to meet with Bass Pro Shops executives as part of the ongoing effort to seal a deal for a Buffalo store.

Brown said that even though all signs point to Buffalo landing an Outdoor World store in the idle Memorial Auditorium, it is important to maintain an aggressive stance.

"I appreciated meeting face-to-face with [Bass Pro Chairman] Johnny Morris and [Bass Pro President] Jim Hagale, and hearing them say they are very committed to bringing a store to Buffalo," Brown said.

"They are very straight shooters and they said the negotiations are going well and progress is being made," he added.

Brown also got his first look at a Bass Pro Shops store when he toured the company's flagship Springfield store. He said while he was amazed by the volume of sporting goods and the quality of the aquariums and other in-store water displays, he was bowled over by what he saw in the parking lot.

"It was a Tuesday morning in March in Springfield, Mo., and the parking lot was nearly full. There were hundreds of cars," Brown said. "It was clear to me that people will come from near and far to a Bass Pro in Buffalo. It will be a true destination."

Brown also met with Springfield's city manager and the head of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"They gave Bass Pro high marks as an excellent corporate citizen that reinvests in the community and brings tremendous benefits to the city," he said.

Brown and Tobe made the Tuesday trip with Larry Quinn, vice chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which is in direct negotiations with Bass Pro executives; and Mindy Rich, a nonvoting member of the harbor panel, who has been instrumental in keeping Bass Pro's interest in Buffalo alive.

Quinn characterized the in-person visit as fruitful in advancing negotiations that have been taking place primarily via e-mail, fax and teleconference.

While he declined to provide specifics of the all-day session, Quinn said talk centered on a list of things that need to be accomplished in the next six months leading to a ground-breaking.

Quinn, who is the managing partner of the Buffalo Sabres, has been playing a major role in talks with Bass Pro, and said the negotiations "continue to be substantive."

Just last week, Bass Pro's Hagale said the talks have boiled down to "documentation." He also called the waterfront master plan unveiled March 9 "dynamic and exciting."

Brown heralded the waterfront master plan as "a defining moment" in the city's economic development history.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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