[caption id="attachment_28297" align="alignleft" width="313" caption="Sports Authority opened its first S.A. Elite store in August 2010 in Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver."][/caption]

CORTE MADERA -- Sporting goods retailer Sports Authority plans to open one of its first new high-end activewear stores, called S.A. Elite, this spring in Town Center Corte Madera.

The Englewood, Colo.-based sporting goods retail chain, which has more than 450 locations, opened its first two S.A. Elite stores in the Denver area in August and November. The new concept carries high-end products by major manufacturers such as Nike and Oakley as well as hard-to-find items such as skiwear from Austria and Italy.

The retailer signed a lease for a 15,640-square-foot space at the south side of the mall and plans to open the store in May.

"They did a survey of communities that fit their model, and Marin County was near the top of the list," said Stan Hoffman, mall general manager.

What attracted the retailer to the mall were Marin's active, outdoors lifestyle and the cluster of related shops and services in the mall -- Bay Club Marin, Urban Outfitters, REI and Lucy Activewear, he said.

The lease keeps the 465,000-square-foot shopping center with only 800 square feet to lease, and negotiations are in final stages for that, according to Mr. Hoffman.

That has been accomplished throughout the economic downturn with only a few lease concessions for smaller tenants, he said.

Furniture retailers hurt by the soured real estate market have been the tenants most affected, according to Mr. Hoffman. Urban Outfitters replaced Pier 1 Imports some time ago. Brooklyn, N.Y.-based natural-urban furniture retailer West Elm has occupied the S.A. Elite space since late 2004 and will be leaving when the lease expires at the end of this month.

Sports Authority is handling bids for S.A. Elite store construction, which is set to begin in February.

Also under construction are Circle Bank's newest branch and a TD Ameritrade office on a north side pad.