FARGO — CI Sport Inc. of Fargo is planning to move and expand its operations into the former Gander Mountain building in south Fargo.
The owners of the company that designs and markets collegiate and corporate apparel on a national level are seeking a five-year property tax exemption from the city that will first be discussed next Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the city tax exempt review committee meeting with final approval needed later from the city commission.
Warren Ackley, an owner of Ci Sport, said he couldn't comment on the expansion at 2121 43rd St. S. near Interstate 94 until the Jan. 22 meeting.
However, in documents filed with the city assessor's office, Ackley and company president Randy Thorson say that they plan to use the structure to manufacture their products as they work with more than 22,000 college and high school bookstores throughout the United States.
The company also provides goods for national corporations, including Amazon, Border States Electric, Pizza Ranch and Scheels, among others.
Currently located downtown in a four-level operation at 16 Broadway, the company said it plans to increase its employees from 83 to 98 when it would open in the new building in April 2020 with about $500,000 of new equipment.
The land valued at $2 million would be leased, but the building constructed in 2004 would be purchased by CI Sport. The building is valued at $1.75 million and the tax exemption would be about $30,000.
Fargo Deputy Mayor Dave Piepkorn, who chairs the tax exemption committee, said he thinks the tax exemption is "reasonable."
He said they are a "good, locally owned business."
With its current manufacturing location, it's tough for semis to operate in that area of Broadway, Piepkorn said.
The deputy mayor said the move could have a domino effect. He said the space CI Sport would vacate in that block of Broadway won't be left vacant, as the owners have been discussing opening an upscale hotel in the building and also working on developing the parking lot behind the building, half of which is owned by the business, and half of which is owned by the city. Piepkorn envisions a parking ramp there, with possibly housing and retail stores also on the site.
The new location for CI Sports has been vacant since Gander Mountain closed its operation in 2017 after filing bankruptcy. The company was purchased by St. Paul-based Gander Outdoors in the spring of 2017, and it was rumored in early 2018 that the store would be reopened. But it didn't make the cut.
According to previous reports, the Fargo Gander Mountain was closed due to an uncooperative landlord. In a June 30, 2017, tweet, Gander Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis said “Land not affordable” and “Landlord not amenable.”
CI Sport, which started on one floor of its downtown building in 1990, expects its sales would increase in the new building with employment growing by almost 50 people in five years.
In the documents, CI Sports said it provides embroidery and screen and digital printing on T-shirts and other apparel. It also does logo designs and product development. It said it is the only business of its kind that operates on a national level.
Thorson and Ackley are also in the restaurant and bar business, as they own Old Broadway, JL Beers, Vinyl Taco and Borrowed Bucks Roadhouse. Ackley was in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Wednesday opening a new Vinyl Taco in what used to be a Borrowed Bucks Roadhouse there.