Black Friday shoppers with a list to fill at Academy Sports + Outdoors will have to do so some place other than Leesville. The planned Academy store here appears to be a casualty of war.
City officials say they have heard nothing from the Katy, Texas company in some time, and the company’s media contacts have not returned multiple calls from the newspaper.
The city revealed last November that the privately held company had decided to build a 62,000-square-feet facility on just over six acres east of U.S. 171 behind BJ’s Diner.
Projected employment was 100, with a mix of full-time and part-time jobs, and an early summer 2017 opening was envisioned.
The Planning & Zoning Commission and the City Council moved quickly to take care of some right-of-way and access issues.
But momentum slowed when it was learned that a small ditch on the proposed site is considered a navigable waterway by the Corps of Engineers under the definitions established by the Clean Waters Act. The legislation was first passed in the 1972 to protect wetlands as well as small streams feeding into larger ones.
In January of this year, Mayor Rick Allen said the store was still in the works, but that the company was redesigning it to accommodate the waterway declaration.
Once that was accomplished, officials say, the company began land purchase efforts that quickly ran into barriers.
One of the tracts had multiple owners who had acquired the property through inheritance — but proper succession steps had not been taken through two generations, meaning substantial legal work and expense would be necessary to gain clear title.
In late summer Allen said efforts were being made to again reconfigure the project or to select another site, and that the store was still planned but by necessity would be moved to Academy’s 2018 construction schedule.
Then came deployment. Movement of about 3,000 troops from Fort Polk to theaters in the War on Terror apparently put the kibosh for the foreseeable future on Academy’s interest in West Central Louisiana, though the company has neither confirmed nor denied such.
Whether the Defense Authorization Act that passed this month with provisions that assure Fort Polk remains open has had any influence on Academy’s thinking is not known, nor is it known whether the Army’s strategic plans that include increased troop numbers at Polk is influencing the company.
Meanwhile, the city and parish are letting no moss grow under their feet. They are preparing for Champion Homes’ manufacturing location in the industrial park and the pending opening of several new small businesses.