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Why this airline bought a big box store in Chesterfield

The entertainment facility will offer go-karts, laser tag, climbing walls, escape rooms, arcade games and more

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — The Chesterfield big-box space that previously housed Gander Outdoors recently sold for $4.8 million.

The buyer? Not a real estate investment trust or another national retailer — but rather Allegiant (NASDAQ: ALGT), the primary air carrier at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois.

The property, at 18491 Outlet Blvd., is 52 miles from the Metro East airport and had been on the market for about 11 months, when Gander Outdoors closed.

So what does a regional airline want with a big box store?

L3 Corp.'s Rick Spector represented the airline in the lease transaction and declined to comment on his client's plans for the property. But an Allegiant spokesman referred questions to the company's fourth-quarter fiscal 2019 earnings transcript in which Chief Marketing Officer Scott DeAngelo told analysts that the company plans to add another location of its family entertainment center called Allegiant Nonstop.

The entertainment facility will offer go-karts, laser tag, climbing walls, escape rooms, arcade games and more. Allegiant Nonstop is expected to open in Chesterfield in the third quarter, DeAngelo told analysts. Investment costs and other details about the opening were not disclosed.

The redevelopment of the former Gander store, which closed in late 2018, is another example of how real estate has been readapted in a rapidly shifting retail scene, where more customers are shopping online and national retailers are having to reduce store count.

Pace Properties Vice President of Brokerage Jim Rosen, who along with Managing Director Joe Ciapciak represented the seller, National Retail Properties, in its deal with Allegiant, said retail isn't shrinking — people are just changing how they shop.

"We knew it was going to be traditional retail or an entertainment concept," Rosen said. Retail in Chesterfield is "strong, will continue to be strong and will even get better."

Big box space in Chesterfield reported an average lease rate of $15.32 per square foot with 3.6% vacancy in the fourth quarter of 2019. The average for the region is $12.72 per square foot and 4.9% vacancy rate, according to Newmark Grubb Zimmer data.

So far, Allegiant Nonstop has opened in towns just outside Salt Lake City and Detroit. Chesterfield is set to be its third.

The family entertainment concept is the latest in Allegiant's moves to become the "go-to" leisure company, officials have said.

Read the full story here.

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