By Patrick Sisson | Curbed
As Americans increasingly shop online and stay at home, can malls find new community appeal?
Les Sandler has seen the future of the American mall, and it involves blacklight mini golf courses, archery tag (foam-tipped arrows, don’t worry), and interactive batting cages.
Sandler and his son Jonah run Scene75, a Dayton, Ohio–based company that’s found a niche in the new retail economy renovating old warehouses and big box stores to create massive entertainment centers. Since launching in 2009, their company has transformed furniture warehouses, former Kmarts, and other retail real estate into family-friendly venues filled with attractions and games.
The company’s newest location, which opened last October at the Tuttle Crossing Mall in Columbus, Ohio, converted a former Macy’s store into a 224,000-square-foot indoor entertainment center filled with go-karts, arcade games, and rides. The chain’s existing locations in Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh welcome roughly 250,000 to 500,000 visitors a year per location, Sandler says, and Scene75 is looking to expand, weighing several new sites across the Midwest.
“Mall developers are trying to use entertainment and restaurants as the new anchor tenants,” says Randy White, CEO of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, a consulting firm focused on location-based entertainment. “Today, it’s about real-life socialization. Potential shoppers can have all the digital entertainment experiences at home.”