HAYWARD -- Big 5 Sporting Goods opens a new store on Foothill Boulevard on Black Friday, giving downtown a boost as the first major retailer to move in for many years.

"With Big 5 coming in, it will bring new business downtown. It will help everybody," said Dino Grasseschi of The Cobblers, across the street from the new store's site on the north end of downtown. "It will brighten up the strip and bring in more shoppers."

The store, located north of A Street on Foothill, is planning a soft opening Wednesday, with a grand opening at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. The 12,000-square-foot building will carry a full line of sporting goods, including firearms, and gear and clothing for snow sports, baseball, soccer, football, golf, tennis, exercise, camping and fishing.

Big 5 has 33 stores in the Bay Area, including San Lorenzo, Fremont, Newark, Emeryville and Dublin. This will be the first one in Hayward. The retailer operates 424 stores in 12 states.

"We've been looking to get into Hayward for several years and finally the right opportunity came up," said Craig Joseph, Big 5 project manager.

The retailer hired 25 local residents, who have been scrambling the past two weeks to get the store ready in time for the biggest shopping day of the year, installing shelves and display counters, arranging merchandise and putting up signs, said store manager Kern Sigala.

"It's certainly been moving quickly the past two weeks," said Sigala, who said he has been putting in 50- to 60-hour weeks, as have most of the employees. "We're definitely putting in the OT to get ready."

While many small businesses have set up shop downtown, this is the first major opening since the Cinema Place movie theater began operating on B Street in 2008, said Kelly McAdoo, assistant city manager.

"We're very excited to have Big 5 come downtown," she said. "It's going to help activate the boulevard. It will encourage foot traffic on Foothill, where we have some great new merchants, such as Doc's Wine Shop."

Big 5 will have its entrance facing a municipal parking lot behind the building. The city has repaved the lot and has agreed not to sell or develop it, McAdoo said.

"We're guaranteeing we will keep 30 spaces in the parking lot for retail, but it's not exclusive to Big 5," she said.

The building at the corner of Foothill and Russell Way was gutted and completely renovated, with a new roof, new flooring and new fixtures, Sigala said.

"We're sure it's going to be a very successful location and will be great for Hayward families," said Lori Taylor, city economic development manager. "I also think that there is a secondary benefit in that it helps show that Hayward is a great locale for retailers, especially downtown."

At one time, downtown Hayward boasted several large retailers, including Capwell's and Joseph I. Magnin, but they closed when Southland Mall was built in the 1960s, Grasseschi said.

"We're excited about having new neighbors. There hasn't been anything in years. Well, maybe up the street where Safeway went in, but there hasn't been anything new other than the movie theater at the other end of Foothill," Grasseschi said.

The new Hayward Area Historical Society's Center for History & Culture also will bring more foot traffic to the area, he said. The center is scheduled to open early next year on Foothill in the block north of Big 5.

The area is showing new signs of life, with several businesses opening, said Big 5 store manager Sigala.

"We like the market and the area," he said. "It seems like they've needed a sporting goods store in the area."

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.