Packers OK with Bass Pro Shops buying Cabela's

Richard Ryman, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
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ASHWAUBENON - The Green Bay Packers think the acquisition of Cabela's by Bass Pro Shops will be a positive development for the store west of Lambeau Field.

Bass Pro Shops agreed to acquire Cabela's and take the company private in a deal valued at $4.5 billion, the companies said Monday. It was not clear whether the acquisition would result in store closures, but the companies said in a statement that Springfield, Mo.-based Bass Pro Shops would "celebrate and grow" the Cabela's brand. The companies said they expect the deal to be approved in the first half of 2017.

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The Packers are the landlord for the Cabela's store at 1499 Lombardi Ave. The outdoors retail store was the team's first commercial development, a precursor to the Titletown District development under construction less than a mile east on Lombardi Avenue.

"From our perspective, the store has done everything we expected and more," Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said Monday. "I know it's been one of their top performing stores ... it was in the top five."

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Long known for large-format destination stores, Cabela's has lost ground to smaller, nimbler competitors and online retailers. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 1.3 percent in the first half of 2016, compared to a year earlier, according to a securities filing

Bass Pro Shops has 99 stores and 20,000 employees. Cabela's has 83 stores and had 19,700 employees at the end of 2015, according to a securities filing. 

Murphy said the Ashwaubenon store does not overlap with any Bass Pro Shops stores, the nearest of which is in Gurnee, Ill., north of Chicago.

Murphy said Titletown District should help the store by drawing more people here.

"It's going to be a bump to their business. I view it as the front porch to Titletown District," he said.

The Packers began trying to develop the land at Interstate 41 and Lombardi Avenue in 2011. Bass Pro Shops expressed interest in the site, but backed out during a controversy over building on a wetland. Advocacy group Wisconsin Wetlands Association opposed the plan and environmentalists put pressure on Bass Pro Shops to pull out.

Cabela's stepped into the void. The store ended up using 2 of nearly 11 acres of wetlands at the 21-acre site. The Packers' permit from the state Department of Natural Resources required enhancing the remaining wetlands acreage, which is immediately south of the store, and the Packers also donated $75,000 for wetland conservation at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve in Suamico.

Cabela's opened in July 2013.

USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey contributed.

Contact and follow him on Twitter @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at rrymanpg or on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette. Or call him at (920) 431-8342.

Cabela's has agreed to be acquired by Bass Pro Shops. Cabela's has a store on Lombardi Avenue in Ashwaubenon.
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