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Sports Authority to close Columbia and Waldorf stores in bankruptcy

A Sports Authority store is shown in Miami. The chain of stores owned by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners will seek to sell or close about 140 stores.
A Sports Authority store is shown in Miami. The chain of stores owned by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners will seek to sell or close about 140 stores. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Sports Authority stores in Columbia and Waldorf will close as part of the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filed Wednesday.

Saddled with debt and unable to upgrade its stores, the sporting goods retailer said it plans to close or sell about 140 stores, nearly a third of the chain, along with distribution centers in Chicago and Denver. The specific stores to be closed or sold will be determined as part of the Chapter 11 process, a spokesman said.

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Among the chain's debts, listed in bankruptcy documents filed in the federal court in Delaware, is $23.2 million in unsecured debt owed to Under Armour, the Baltimore-based athletic apparel brand.

Sports Authority said in a statement that the bankruptcy allows it to adapt to the "changing dynamics" of the retail industry, especially the growth of ecommerce, which likely means fewer bricks-and-mortar stores in the future.

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Sports Authority, based in Colorado, took on a large amount of debt when acquired in 2006 by Los Angeles private equity firm Leonard Green and Partners for $1.3 billion.

In a statement, Sports Authority CEO Michael Foss said the Chapter 11 process will give the company the "financial flexibility to continue to make necessary investments in our operations."

Of the stores set to be closed or sold, 87 leases are already listed for sale, including the Columbia and Waldorf stores, according to A&G Realty Partners, which is managing the sale of retail store leases and helping reduce Sports Authority's occupancy costs after its bankruptcy filing. The Columbia store is in The Mall in Columbia; the Waldorf store is on Crain Highway in Waldorf.

Sports Authority has 463 stores in 41 states and Puerto Rico, including Baltimore-area stores in Towson, White Marsh, Catonsville, Laurel and Bowie.

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