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Lee Benson, Deseret News
With 220,000 square feet of floor space, there is nothing small about the new Scheels sporting goods store in Sandy.


There is nothing small about the new Scheels sporting goods store on 11400 South. This place casts a huge shadow.

How big is it? 220,000-square-feet big. Scheels is the Star Lotulelei of the neighborhood. All of a sudden the Costco warehouse next door, at a mere 165,000, seems downright puny. The Home Depot up the street, 150,000 square feet, is just another kid on the block. A sorta big box.

You could do one lap around the Scheels parking lot and call it a workout.

It's not the biggest stand-alone retail store in Utah. That would be IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant. At 310,000 square feet, it could be its own city.

But unofficially at least, Scheels is No. 2. As near as I could tell from my research — consisting mostly of thinking about it, then making phone calls — the only other retail store in Utah at or above 200,000 square feet is the Macy's department store that used to be the north end of the Cottonwood Mall. It checks in at an even 200K.

Others come close. There's a Walmart Supercenter in Logan that's 194,000 square feet, and the Walmart Supercenter at Jordan Landing is 192,000. Cabela's, the hunting and sportsman's paradise in Lehi, is 173,000 square feet, and Smith & Edwards north of Ogden is 171,000 square feet, not counting the 60 acres of war surplus scattered around outside.

Beyond that, there are plenty of Lowe's and Home Depot and Costco buildings and a few department stores in the 125K-to-150K range, and R.C. Willey has plans to build a 160,000-square-foot furniture store in Draper.

To Scheels, that's what they call just getting started.

The largest retail store in America, by the way, is the Macy's on 34th Street in New York City. It has 1.1 million square feet on nine floors. The shoe department alone is two floors. In the world, the largest retail store is the Shinsegae Centumcity Department Store in Busan, South Korea, weighing in at 3.16 million square feet.

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Scheels hasn't always been big. The whole thing began in 1902 with a chain of one in the small town of Sabin on the western edge of Minnesota. Frederick A. Scheel, a German immigrant, opened a hardware and general merchandise store there because he was tired of farming. The business proved popular enough that over time it spread out and added more and more stores.

From there, Scheels' history reflects America's history when it comes to leisure time and the popularity of sports. In 1954 the stores added a small selection of sporting goods to their inventories. In 1972, shoes and clothing made an appearance. In 1989, they opened their first all-sports store.

Today, there are 24 Scheels in 10 states and not one of them sells hardware.

There's one even bigger than Utah's. The Scheels in Sparks, Nev., is 295,000 square feet and, according to the Scheels website, is the world's largest all-sports store in the world.

Still, Utah's is no slouch. I checked it out the other day. There's a 65-foot Ferris Wheel inside the store. There's a 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. There's a 35-foot tall mountain decorated with stuffed animals (appropriately located next to what is billed as the largest selection of guns in the state). There's an entire airplane hanging from the ceiling.

Surrounding all this is everything sports — balls, gloves, bikes, tents, canoes, golf clubs, guns, fishing poles, clothing gear, etc.

This part, I have to say, was underwhelming. There's a lot of quantity at Scheels, but other than a Ferris Wheel ride — which costs a dollar — it did not appear they have anything you can't get anywhere else, or for any less of a price.

I was hoping to talk to someone about the gigantic-ness of the place, but the managers were all too busy to take a break and the person they referred me to in the events coordinator office never got back to me.

But that's life in the big-box leagues. The larger they are, the harder it is to get someone to return your call.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday.

Email: benson@desnews.com