“We opened one of the country’s premier play areas in 2001,” says Polaris Fashion Place general manager Michael Minns. “It was built by PLAYTIME and sponsored by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, one of the top-rated zoos in the country. When we decided it was time for a fresh experience, we asked both PLAYTIME and the Zoo to join us again. Together, we added a ‘wow factor’ to the entire area.”
Located in Columbus, OH in one of the fastest-growing counties in the state, Polaris Fashion Place is a super-regional shopping destination offering a distinctive mix of fashion retailers, anchors and restaurants. According to Minns, everyone at the mall is focused on providing the best experience possible for shoppers.
“We are all about Experience Retail™,” says Minns. “We want to create something so special that shoppers come back time and time again.”
In keeping with that mission, when it was time for the 14-year-old PLAYTIME play area to undergo a makeover, everyone at Polaris Fashion Place wanted to push the envelope and surprise shoppers with a one-of-a-kind play experience.
“We kept the existing footprint, but we were able to take advantage of advancements in technology and design,” Minns explains. “For example, we wanted a bigger centerpiece. Our previous tree was 13 feet tall. The new one is 23 feet tall and makes quite a statement. Even guests walking on the upper level can’t miss it.”
PLAYTIME and WP Glimcher, the property’s developer, also worked with sponsor Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to add more animal play elements and to ensure that all of the new species featured in the play area were currently living at the Zoo.
The giant tree in the center of the play area includes speakers with soundtracks of actual animal sounds, such as chimps, elephants and lions. Further, the sound system works as a speaker for presentations, meaning that The Zoo can bring live animals to the play area and speak about them using a microphone that broadcasts from the tree’s speakers.
“That helps us to expand our programming,” says Minns.
The Polaris Fashion Place play area’s entrance includes a speaker system with rainforest sounds and light tubes that mimic a rain storm. The play area also includes interactive games that were custom-designed to entertain Polaris Fashion Place’s youngest visitors, and the surrounding wall was custom-designed to accommodate the games right into the seating.
“The reaction we’ve received has been very strong and very positive,” says Minns. “Retailers around the play area are thrilled with the additional traffic it has added. Happy families are always a nice thing for a mall to enjoy.”