Gart Sports plans to open this month

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The new Gart Sports store in Steamboat Springs will open by the middle of the month, the company's regional manager said Wednesday.

Bill Hancock said Gart expects to have a soft opening by Dec. 15 and a grand opening Dec. 18.

A tractor-trailer was backed up to the store's loading dock this week delivering merchandise.

"There's a flurry of business going on there," Hancock said. "This whole store is special. There's no store like it. I really hope locals accept us."

The manager of the new store is Matt Diamond, who has been the assistant manager of Gart Sports in Avon. Hancock said he is particularly knowledgeable about the ski industry.

"Matt is really good," Hancock said. "He's been a certified master boot fitter for years."

Diamond told the Steamboat Today in March that his staff in Avon is free to send customers to other nearby sporting good stores when his store can't fulfill their needs. For example, if they are out of high-end demo skis for rent, Diamond said, they don't hesitate to send them to another shop.

Gart will employ about 30 people, and Hancock said the hiring process went well. The building will total 30,000 square feet including a basement warehouse.

Gart officials originally hoped to build a bigger store here. The smaller size means the staff will have to do a little more seasonal changeover of merchandise. Merchandise for spring and summer sports won't be as evident in the new store this winter as it might have been in a bigger building.

"At this point in time, we're not bringing in a lot of team sports -- soccer equipment and baseball equipment -- we'll have that come March," Hancock said.

It will be possible to buy a basketball this winter, but the selection won't be as big as it might be in other seasons.

Gart has been recognized as part of the largest sporting goods chain in the nation since its August 2003 merger with the Sports Authority. The Sports Authority Inc. has its headquarters in Englewood.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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