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Spring 2009 Xscape Hopes to Lure Millions to Mall

Proving that in every recession there are opportunities for smart retailers who move fast, Amanda Royalty, real estate director for Indianapolis-based Zoom Entertainment says, “We saw malls with vacant anchors, we thought ‘How can we capitalize on that?’ We wanted [a retail concept] that would bring the families out” for hours of fun. An experiential concept.

Xscape (TheXscape.com) opened its first prototype store in December in a 75,000-square-foot space left open by Lazarus in Lafayette Square in Indianapolis. Billed as “the largest indoor theme park in the Midwest,” the space includes rides and activities for all ages, including teacup and other rides for tiny tots, go karts, quick-drop thrill rides, mini bowling, laser tag, bumper cars, mini golf, plus hundreds of the latest arcade games.

There’s also a 40-seat XD Theatre that provides a 4-D motion-ride experience, along with three themed dining rooms that offer gourmet pizzas, create-your-own pasta bars, salad bars and make-your-own ice cream sundae bars. Party rooms are available for special events.

Children love the Toonville dining room, complete with comfy booths and a big-screen TV playing kids’ favorite cartoons. The Sports Bar is popular with adults (beers and wines served), and there’s a Drive In Movie restaurant for families to relax, eat and watch a family friendly flick.

Prior to launch, Escape executives studied the most popular attractions and games at theme parks around the world with the help of a theme-park designer whose experience included projects for Universal Studios, Epcot and Six Flags. The goal was to fit the best-of-the-best rides and entertainment into a mall space that’s very small compared to the typical theme park.

“We chose Indianapolis based on the lack of entertainment there and its dense population,” Royalty says. The mall is “just 10 minutes from downtown.”

Xscape’s target customers are primarily five million residents “who live within the trade area-a 50 to 70 mile radius-who have the income to afford the facility,” Royalty says. Entrance costs $8.49 for adults, $4.99 for children and $6.99 for seniors. Children two or younger get in free. Once inside, customers pay to play. Prices on games and rides range from 25 cents to a few dollars.

With less than two months’ operation under its belt, Escape’s attendance has been better than expected. In January, “We had more than 7,000 guests in a three-day period,” says Allison Clark, marketing manager for Zoom. Expansion plans are already in the works. Royalty thinks that one or possibly two new Xscapes could be open by June.

Xscape’s retail concept is something that’s attractive to leasing managers not only because of the foot traffic the concept can generate, but because it’s a tenant that can fill a relatively large anchor space. Lots of tenants can fill an inline space, but it takes certain tenants to fill tens of thousands of feet of open anchor space.

The mall’s general manager Phil Thorton, expects the concept to be a big family draw. “Families need a place to go,” he told the local press in early January. “Churches, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts-any youth organization-are always looking for a venue to take the young people to. This is the perfect place.”

Royalty sees concepts like Xscape as the wave of the future. In fact, she’s betting that the current downturn will help Escape draw more customers. “The economy will not turn around overnight, and in dire economic times entertainment value increases,” she says. “People go to the movies and do other things to forget about their problems. Our facility makes sense for that. Xscape brings people to the mall.”

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Randall G. Mielke

Mielke is a freelancer who writes about retail, business and economic development for a variety of publications.

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