It’s likely to be at least six months before Springfield can enjoy their own beaver-themed mega gas station and tourist attraction.
The Texas-based Buc-ee’s is currently constructing a 53,000-square-foot travel center with more than 100 gas pumps on the northeast outskirts of Springfield off the I-44 interstate. They broke ground last August and a spokesperson confirmed that a grand opening of the store might not happen until early next year.
“I checked with the team and they are currently projecting a late 2023 or early 2024 opening,” the spokesperson told the News-Leader as the project nears a year of construction.
Founded in 1982, Buc-ee’s operates 43 stores across Texas and the South. Since beginning a multi-state expansion in 2019, Buc-ee’s has opened travel centers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
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During the August 2022 groundbreaking of the project, Buc-ee’s founder and CEO Arch “Beaver” Aplin III said he hoped to return in a year for the store’s opening. Those projections appear to be slightly delayed based on the chain’s current estimate.
“Just a few years ago, building in Missouri was not on my radar. It’s a long ways from Texas. But we’re excited about being here…” he said at the time. “My two favorite things to do — one is a groundbreaking and then the second is a ribbon cutting and store opening. So we’ll be back here in a year.”
Two rounds of reimbursement were approved by Springfield’s City Council for Buc-ee’s public infrastructure improvements.
The chain will be reimbursed a total of $9.2 million over a 20-year period from the two packages, but city leaders have argued the reimbursements are an attempt to pay Buc-ee’s back only for the public improvements they make to I-44 and other public infrastructure. The reimbursements also only come from funds generated by the new and improved public infrastructure or a special sales tax on purchases within the store.
“It’s going to have all the products, we know it’s going to employ the people. It’s going to have really good prices. It’s going to help us economically help our community and it’s going to open up this property to other development,” said City Manager Jason Gage at last year’s groundbreaking.
Aplin also said Buc-ee’s targeted Springfield because of its business-friendly climate.
“It means so much to come to a community that is so business friendly, that wants business in their community. It just makes all the difference in the world. Its one of the unofficial things — just kind of a box that I mentally check when we look at locations. We have not built in great locations because, quite honestly, it just wasn’t a business friendly community and it’s not that much fun to swim upstream and fight your way all the way. And so we very much appreciate the fact that y’all want us in your community,” he said.
The emergence of the superstore has not been without critics. A group called Dam Up Buc-ee’s protested against the chain because of an alleged negative environmental impact and use of taxpayer funds. It is unclear if the group is still active since holding a 50-person protest outside City Hall last year.