Boaz Considers Replacing Outlets With Recreation Center

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BOAZ, Ala. (WHNT) -- The mayor of Boaz has a new plan for the once thriving outlets.

He wants to tear down all but three of the buildings, and replace them with basketball courts, an aquatic complex with indoor and outdoor pools, and other recreational facilities.

Tim Walker said this is his "Game Changer."

The outlets currently house a bowling alley (upper right dark yellow on the map), movie theater (lower right dark yellow), and a few shops such as the Snead State Bookstore (upper left dark yellow), but most of the once packed facility sits empty.

"[Outlets are] not successful anywhere except where there is a tourist destination or an interstate," Walker said.

"[Outlets have] been reinvented so many times, that where Boaz was a great, perfect location at one time, it's not any more."

He said the shopping center will not be drawing in new stores, but city officials want to take all that space of the old stores and turn it into something attractive and useful to the city.

"We've been wanting to build a recreation center, so we [can] build a recreation center and locate it on the site where these old buildings were," Walker said.

"It converts negative square footage into positive square footage and it will have a pretty good way of paying for itself, too."

Mayor Walker said that he could be wrong as it has not yet been fully researched or proven, but he hopes the city council will authorize The Sports Facilities Advisory, a Florida-based recreation planning consultant, to do a feasibility study.

This is a project Walker conceived several years ago, but within the past year it started seeming more likely it could become a reality.

He wants the city to purchase the outlet buildings and land for about $2 million.

That's less than half the amount it would have cost the city five years ago.

The city of Boaz would become landlord and lease the shops to tenants such as the bowling alley, movie theater, Rack Room Shoes, Paragon Gallery Outlet, and others.

Many empty storefronts would be torn down, with a large recreation center built on the same plot as the building which once housed Famous Labels.

It would have indoor basketball and volleyball courts, a walking track, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a gym with weights and exercise equipment.

Walker said his idea involves the city operating some of the facility like a private fitness center with membership fees, which would generate revenue, while also keeping much of it free and open to the public.

He views it as an improvement in quality of life as well as a money-making attraction.

"We can maintain a presence of outlets here and we can grow our traditional retail and who knows, we may even be able to attract something new from this," he said.

Walker said the city would need to take out a 20 year bond and want to make sure enough outside eyes review the finances to make sure the revenue stream would work.

"There's a lot of positive elements coming from it," Walker said.

"It's an expensive venture and the city needs to make sure they do the research to make sure they can pay for it today."

He expects a year of research and planning, and if approved, an additional year of site preparation before any facilities were ready for use.