The city's efforts to offer more non-gambling attractions are taking a step forward with the opening of the Bass Pro Shops store in the heart of the downtown outlet mall district.
The 85,000-square-foot store is envisioned as a destination in its own right, located in The Walk, the shopping and dining area a few blocks from the casinos in the center of the city.
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A grand opening ceremony was to be held Wednesday evening. The store sells equipment for fishing, hunting, camping, boating and other outdoor pursuits.
Mayor Don Guardian said he expects 750,000 people a year will visit the store, which includes a two-story fake waterfall with artificial trees, stuffed bears, deer and a moose and a 13,000-gallon aquarium.
"It's not only going to attract typical customers to Atlantic City, but it will also attract customers who have never been here before," Guardian told The Press of Atlantic City. "While they're at Bass Pro Shops, they'll also see this is still a great city for dining, shopping and to stay over."
The aquarium has 76 fish, all species found in New Jersey's waterways. They include bass, trout, pike, perch, an Atlantic salmon and a sturgeon that is hand-fed shrimp.
Atlantic City has been trying various ways to attract visitors other than gamblers as its casino industry has contracted over the past eight years. Proposals for the former Bader Field airport site and an expansion of Gardners Basin call for similar non-gambling uses.