One of West Towne Mall's largest vacant spaces is about to be filled, but it won't be for retail.
Instead, the former Toys R Us building on the southern end of the mall property is being targeted for an Urban Air Adventure Park.
The national chain based in Dallas, Texas, features bumper cars, zip lines, trampolines, rock walls, dodge ball, an "urban warrior" course, laser tag and other activities. The 48,000-square-foot business also will include a cafe and rooms for birthday parties. It's another step in the mall's evolution, where more experiential businesses are becoming more common place.
"We're seeing a lot of changes in the mall," said Michala Meyerhofer, West Towne's marketing director. "We're seeing people looking for a lot more entertainment options. It's exciting.
A Dave & Buster's restaurant and arcade and a Total Wine & More opened last spring in half of the space that had been home to a Sears' store. The remaining half remained a Sears until Sears closed the store in September. That space remains empty.
At East Towne Mall -- also owned by CBL Properties, which owns West Towne -- a Flix Brewhouse opened in July in a space that had been home to a Steve & Barry's clothing store and more recently a Steinhafel's furniture store. The Flix, a 39,000-square-foot combination brewpub and cinema features a system that can brew seven barrels of beer at a time, has 48 taps and a nine-screen cinema with auditoriums ranging in size from 33 to 225 seats in which moviegoers can enjoy a beer, pizza, sandwich or several other items off the menu.
The West Towne addition of Urban Air, scheduled to open this fall, helps fill a vast amount of space that has become vacant at and near the mall in the last 18 months. The vacancies include 56,000 square feet at the former Sears, a 140,000-square-foot former Boston Store, an 80,000-square-foot former Shopko and a 35,000-square-foot Stein Mart. The Toys R Us closed in 2018 and last fall was home to a Halloween Express and, for the holidays, a Toy Express. But it has been empty since January.
Urban Air will bring new life to the property and more activity from families.
“Parents want their kids off their phones, giving them less screen time and more time to play and engage with other kids their age the old-fashioned way," Urban Air’s founder and CEO Michael Browning said in a press release.
The company says it will have 300 locations open by 2020 and has plans for adventure parks in Waukesha and Appleton. The company is not affiliated with Sky Zone Trampoline Park, which has a Madison location on the Beltline near Culver's.