Starkville's Sports Center is closing after 10 years. The store's owner announced the closure in a Wednesday Facebook post and has cited rising rent as a primary cause. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
December 7, 2018 10:35:22 AM
After 10 years in operation, Sports Center's Starkville location is closing its doors.
The store's general manager and owner, Wyatt Craig, announced the closure with Wednesday evening Facebook post. In the post, Craig says the rent for the building Sports Center occupies in the State Shopping Center, at the intersection of Highway 12 and Louisville Street, has become too high for the store to continue operating.
In a Thursday interview, Craig expressed some frustration with the property owner and said the building's rent has doubled.
"I feel like we've been as a good a tenant as you can get," Craig said. "Recently, we got notice that they're going to double the rent. When you get that type of notice, you have to reconsider things and it didn't seem feasible."
The Starkville Sports Center opened in 2008 and employs about 25 people. It's the largest store in the State Shopping Center. It's one of two locations in Mississippi, with the original in Natchez that opened in 1946.
Craig said the Starkville store will remain open through the end of January or February, depending on how the coming weeks go.
He said Sports Center is pursuing other potential locations in Starkville, but it's currently unclear whether any of those options will work out.
Academy Sport Store, which opened in the summer of 2017, had some impact on Sports Center's business. J.D. Owens, one of Sports Center's managers, said Academy hurt the most with fishing and athletic sales.
"In other areas, we've held our own," he said.
Craig also said he felt Academy's impact, in terms of competition, was limited because his store offers a better product and service. However, he said there are "only so many dollars" to go around in a community and said he was frustrated with a $1.5 million tax increment financing bond the city and county approved in 2016 to help attract the store.
"Academy did not cause this, but they helped it," Craig said.
The TIF helped fund public infrastructure near the project, including an access road connecting Academy Sports and Hollywood Boulevard. The board also approved diverting 100 percent of Academy's ad valorem taxes and 33 percent of its sales taxes toward the TIF debt.
On Wednesday and Thursday, "Store Closing" and "Everything Must Go" signs that announced steep discounts on the store's inventory, were plastered across the Sports Center's front windows.
Seth Wood, one of the store's manager's said the two days have, so far, probably been some of Sports Center's busiest days this year.
"When we announced it, the droves of people started piling in," he said. "It's (Thursday) been one of the busiest days we've had this year. And (Wednesday) was probably the same. It's been back-to-back."
Owens said the store has offered similar sales as soon as a few weeks ago without generating the same kind of interest as the going out of business sale. Still, he said he doesn't think that speaks ill of Starkville's shoppers.
"I don't think it speaks to the community as much as it does human nature," Owens said. "We want what we can't have. If you see something that says 'Hey, I'm not about to be able to get this anymore,' you might decide you better go get it."
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