Although no big deal is made of it, the 110,000-square-foot Denver Sportscastle does have diversions such as the tennis court on the roof, where customers can hit with pro Ed Foley, and the artificial mountain in the ski department—a treadmill-like setup consisting of a 22- by 36-foot rolling rug on a 30-degree angle. Beginners can get a sense of what skiing is like, with no cold to contend with, no awkward clothing, no intimidating chair-lift rides. Apprentice skiers can hold onto a rail and watch themselves perform on skis in a mirror—"like ballet dancers," says in-house ski instructor Fred King.
"Bass Outdoor World is a fabulous store, just fabulous," says Gart. He interrupts himself to greet customers he recognizes through the glass wall of his office, which faces the main entrance to the Sportscastle. "I don't know that we're operating the largest sporting goods store in the world today. But we're running the best one.... We really believe we have every single thing the sportsman could want. The only real department Outdoor World has is fishing. It's a different thing entirely. And we're not a museum, a place to visit from curiosity. The attractions we have are to utilize the product we sell. I have no intention of hiring a curator to run an aquarium."
Morris says, "Gart Bros, is ahead of us in its skiing department and in cameras, but other than that I can't think what Jerry Gart has that we don't have. And we also have reel repair, taxidermy and a wildlife art gallery."
The Sportscastle claims that the world's largest golf shop is within its walls. Outdoor World claims that it has the world's largest rod-and-reel shop and a taxidermy department that handles 1,600 fish a year. Most fish are shipped to Springfield frozen, though Bass Pro Shops can make fiberglass replicas from just measurements and photos, and it urges anglers to release their catches.
Several members of the Gart clan—Jerry's Uncle Melvin, his brother Mickey and his three sons, Kenneth, Thomas and John—work in the Sportscastle, and they count Gerald and Betty Ford and Jack Nicklaus among their acquaintances. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp and the Aga Khan have been customers. But Outdoor World has been visited by two presidents, George Bush and Jimmy Carter. And Gary Carter, Christian Okoye, Porter Wagoner and the band Alabama are among Bass Pro Shops' customers. Gart Bros, sponsors an annual Labor Day weekend ski sale that draws as many as 18,000 shoppers a day. Outdoor World sponsored a "World Fishing Fair" in 1988 that drew 250,000 people over four days.
But why keep score? In the land of the sporting goods giants, it's a pleasure just to browse around.