EAST HARTFORD, CT-Cabela’s Inc., one of the nation’s largest retailers of outdoor merchandise, is planning its first destination superstore in New England at a former airfield in East Hartford, CT.

The 200,000-sf “outdoor experience” store to be built by Cabela’s at a cost of between $35 million to $45 million, will be constructed on 10 lakefront acres at the former Rentschler airfield, a once-abandoned airport that currently is home to the University of Connecticut’s football stadium.

“We know that we have a lot of great customers in Connecticut and throughout the entire region, and we’re excited about the possibility of a store in East Hartford,” Dennis Highby, president and CEO of Cabela’s Inc. said in a statement announcing the company’s plans. “Spending time outdoors hunting, fishing, hiking and camping is a big part of the history and culture of Connecticut and the Northeast, and we know that we will complement and benefit the community.”

The store, with its aquarium, museum, trout pond and an indoor mountain displaying trophy animals amid running waterfalls and streams, will be the centerpiece of a $2 billion redevelopment project planned for the airfield, owned by United Technologies. It is expected to be open by the fall of 2007 pending the town’s approval of tax abatements and funding agreements currently under negotiations with the state Department of Economic and Community Development. If those negotiations conclude successfully, Cabela’s said it expects to commit to a minimum 20-year lease with lease extensions possible.

Cabela’s, which will be one of the projects first occupants, said the store also will include an indoor archery range, shooting gallery, gun library and a deli-style restaurant featuring wild-game sandwiches and is expected to employ as many as 450 workers. The Sidney, NE company currently has 12 retail locations and is planning several more this year.

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