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Bass Pro Shops: Florida's largest lake attracts retail and resort giant 

Bass Pro Shops wants to build a fishing resort on the shores of Florida's largest freshwater lake. The Springfield-based company, which already operates multiple lodging properties, was one of two entities that submitted a proposal to Okeechobee County earlier this year to redevelop a 99-acre site along Lake Okeechobee.  Bass Pro has proposed paying $300,000 cash for a nine-month option on the property, which it will use to study the feasibility of transforming the site into "a world-class destination fishing resort." If the company moves forward with its plan, it would pay the county $2.7 million more to purchase the property.

Lake Okeechobee is a 730-square-mile body of water in south-central Florida, about 50 miles inland from the Palm Beach area. The site where Bass Pro is exploring building the resort is at 10430 W. Highway 78 in Okeechobee, along the northern edge of the lake. The site was previously home to the Okee-Tantie Campground and Marina. Use of the county facility declined after damage caused by hurricanes in 2004, leading to the decision in 2012 to close the RV campground and bait and tackle shop, according to documents prepared by the county.  In a letter to the commission, Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris said the company is "the most qualified partner" to develop and operate a resort "on the most notable bass fishing lake in America."

"We also feel that the strength of our company and its marketing horse power make us the very best marketing partner to promote this great fishing destination," he wrote. "Through our stores, catalogs, Internet and social media channels, and through our existing destination resorts, we will create an incredible amount of nationwide exposure for this destination."  Morris said he had visited the property multiple times and referenced "many years spent fishing" on the lake.  The proposal contained few specifics regarding Bass Pro's plans for the resort. Morris said the company was "not at all comfortable" submitting detailed plans it might need to later change.


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