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Is outdoors giant Cabela's eyeing opening in Wesley Chapel?

WESLEY CHAPEL — Bass Pro Shops could be getting some competition for customers attracted to specialty outdoor mega-stores.

This morning, an engineering firm that frequently represents Nebraska-based Cabela's — a leading specialty retailer of hunting, fishing, camping and related outdoor merchandise — is scheduled to meet with the Pasco County planning staff to discuss a proposal for commercial space within the Cypress Creek Town Center.

County documents described the proposed development, across the street from the about-to-open Tampa Premium Outlets mall, as a 105,712-square-foot retail store with adjoining parking field and boat storage space.

Representatives for Cabela's, a chain in the midst of a multiyear expansion, and the project manager from Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., the engineering firm that has represented Cabela's in other locales, did not return telephone messages for comment.

The size of the proposed store in Wesley Chapel matches the dimensions of a Cabela's store that opened in April in North Carolina. At 105,000 square feet, it would be about 19 percent smaller than the Bass Pro Shops store in Brandon that opened in July.

Cabela's said in its 2014 annual report that it would open in 13 new markets in 2015, including sites in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, and it had identified 17 new locations for 2016-17 "with plans to open 12 to 14 new stores or approximately 900,000 to 1 million square feet annually in each of the coming years."

It currently has no stores in Florida. One of the new locations, in Woodbury, N.Y., is similar to the Wesley Chapel site in that it is adjacent to a Simon Property Group-owned outlet mall.

Cabela's stores feature log construction and an interior that can include a large mountain replica, aquarium, wildlife displays, indoor archery range, a gun library, boat shop, deli and fudge store. Its registered trademark is the "World's Foremost Outfitter." The North Carolina store employs 225 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees, the company said in a prior statement.

The Cypress Creek Town Center, at 25262 Wesley Chapel Blvd., (County Road 54), is at the northwest corner of the interchange of Interstate 75 and State Road 56. The property is owned by the Sierra family's Tampa Ranch Inc. Bob Sierra, chairman and CEO of Sierra Properties, said a confidentially agreement prohibited him from disclosing the identity of the potential tenant.

A Cabela's outdoor store is a natural next step for the retail growth in Wesley Chapel along Interstate 75, said Steve Kirn, executive director of the David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research at the University of Florida, who added that the retailer tends to open stores in bustling suburban communities.

"They're a destination store. So, by putting one in Wesley Chapel, they'll attract people from the Orlando market as well as all of Tampa Bay," Kirn said.

After Bass Pro Shops' explosive store opening in Brandon along I-75, it makes sense for Cabela's to want to get into the market, too, despite their similar assortment of outdoor and sporting goods merchandise, Kirn said.

"Bass Pro may have broken the ice, but Cabela's wouldn't pick a location without doing their own research," he said. "They must feel like the market is big enough for both of them, and that Bass Pro may have come first, but that they can take some of their market share."

Sierra said the Cypress Creek Town Center plans include a separate 250,000-square-foot, multi-tenant commercial center, restaurants, a hotel and other commercial space. Kohl's previously indicated a desire to be in the development and also met with county planners in April. Sierra said no lease had been signed with the department store, but he said Kohl's "is still in play."

Times Staff Writer Justine Griffin contributed to this report. Contact C.T. Bowen at (813) 435-7306 or ctbowen@tampabay.com. Follow @ctbowen2

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