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New Academy Sports superstore opens in Rock Hill

Give 30 children from the Boys and Girls Club of York County each a $100 gift certificate and their own personal assistant to navigate the shopping cart and you get – silence?

Pretty much so. That was the reaction Thursday as the new Academy Sports + Outdoors store held a special shopping event for the club ahead of today’s official opening.

“You don’t realize how much this means for the children until you see their faces,” said JoAnn Brown, a board member for the club.

The children from Sullivan Middle School and the Northside Club proved to be careful shoppers, checking prices and asking if they were getting the best deal as they walked the store that had the smell of a brand new car. Some shopped for their brothers and sisters before shopping for themselves.

Club board members, as well as Academy Sports employees, were waiting for the first child to realize he or she could go home with a new bike. Academy Sports’ pricing philosophy is good, better, best – and some of the bikes were within the children’s price range.

The personal assistants were members of the sales staff. Most of the 125 employees for the store were hired locally.

Today’s “soft” opening marks the 141st store for the Houston-based chain and the fourth in South Carolina. The company has stores in Greenville, Spartanburg and Columbia.

An official grand opening will start March 30 and run for three days. The grand opening will include giveaways, product demonstrations and in-store tryouts.

The company considered four locations for a new store before deciding on Rock Hill, said George Beaudry, the store’s director. Beaudry is one of the few people Academy brought to Rock Hill. Previously, he managed the Academy Sports store in Arlington, Texas.

“We drove around and saw all the outdoor activities, you could not have a better location,” Beaudry said. “We make sense for Rock Hill.”

The new store off Dave Lyle Boulevard has 71,000 square-feet, most of it devoted to sales space. Beaudry said one of the challenges in opening a store in March is having winter, spring, even summer, merchandise for sale.

The Rock Hill store is comparable with other Academy stores, Beaudry said. He noted that other chain retailers have brought smaller versions of their stores to the Rock Hill market, but Academy “didn’t cut back.”

Some of the merchandise is based on the region. There is a selection of college-themed wear for Clemson, Duke, North Carolina and Winthrop, as well as the Carolina Panthers.