Academy Sports opens today

STAFF PHOTO BY AMY BANTON Alonzo Carter tries to decide what kind of shoes to purchase at Academy Sports on Thursday. Also pictured are Academy Sports employee Christy Roberts and Luxenia Lee.

Academy Sports + Outdoors opens today though a group of young shoppers already had an opportunity to explore the new retail store on Thursday.

The retailer gave $100 gift cards to 30 local children who participate in the Aiken Department of Public Safety Police Athletic League, who then went on a one-hour shopping spree on Thursday.

Academy Sports' little guests excitedly rushed around the 62,000- square-foot sporting goods store with its employees assisting the children as they picked out the merchandise that they wanted.

Academy Sports employee Eric Mace spent the hour roaming around the store with Javius Jones who picked out some new basketball shorts and shoes.

“It was awesome,” Mace said smiling. “It was fun to be able to do this for the kids in the community.”

Aiken Police Athletic League Treasurer Kim Abney said the organization is very appreciative of the new business offering the children this opportunity.

“It's really great that the kids get to shop for what they want and not just what they need,” Abney said. “How often does anyone get to do that?”

Debbie Potts' two children, Deshan and A.J., participated in the shopping event on Thursday. She said they really enjoy the activities offered by the Aiken Police Athletic League and were so excited about getting some new sporting gear on Thursday.

“I think it's just a good opportunity for them,” Potts said. “Some never get this chance.”

Academy Sports Store Director Ken Fehrenbach said they were thrilled to partner with the Aiken Police Athletic League. These youth give-back events are a tradition for Academy Sports when a new store is opened, he added.

Academy Sports opens to the public today at 8 a.m., and Fehrenbach said his staff have been busy training and stocking the store for the last few weeks.

“We hired 138 people, and they have been working tirelessly since the 23rd of June,” Fehrenbach said.

Fehrenbach said he's also heard from residents who are excited that Academy Sports chose Aiken as a location. Before today, the closest Academy Sports location was in Evans, Ga.

“I think the community is just as ready (for the opening) as the associates,” said Fehrenbach.

Fehrenbach said Academy Sports conducted advanced research, and they have merchandise that's regionally relevant. He added that if there's anything in the store that they don't have, they will make sure their customers' needs are met.

Today, the first 100 customers in line at the new store who show that they “like” the official Academy Facebook page will receive a free 50 quart Igloo rolling cooler, Fehrenbach added.

Academy Sports has 163 stores throughout the country and offers a variety of sports, outdoor and lifestyle merchandise.

Academy Sports + Outdoors in Aiken is located at 321 Fabian Drive in Hitchcock Plaza and will be open Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Amy Banton is the County reporter and has been with the Aiken Standard since May 2010.