DeBartolo Commons opens new era for Southern Park Mall | News, Sports, Jobs

Children enjoy kicking around balls on a soccer field at the Southern

Children enjoy kicking around balls on a soccer field at the Southern Park Mall’s DeBartolo Commons, which had a Saturday grand opening. The outdoor facility includes soccer fields, a concert stage, restaurants that will open soon and an ice skating rink that is expected to open next month.

BOARDMAN — With more people shopping online, the Southern Park Mall had to make changes, its general manager said.

That led to DeBartolo Commons, a 4-acre outdoor athletic and entertainment green space and event venue that had a Saturday grand opening.

“As developers, we’ve had to look at what we have as an asset and figure out: what do we need to do to reinvent ourselves because if you look at retail as a whole, it’s changed,” said Brian Gabbert, Southern Park’s general manager. “The landscape of retail has changed over the years. People shop online and that’s just the way things have gone so if we continue to operate the same way we always have, I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure.”

DeBartolo Commons, a project developed three years ago, will be a great asset for the mall and the community, Gabbert said.

“We had to look at what do we do with our asset,” he said. “The answer we came to is we need to do something that is experiential, something that people can bring their families to and enjoy a safe outdoor activity, restaurant space, concert space, all those types of things you can’t get online. That’s the most exciting to us. We’re providing people with something that’s very unique in this area.”

DeBartolo Commons includes soccer fields, a concert stage and plenty of outdoor space for community activities.

An ice skating rink will open in mid-November and two restaurants, including one that provides an indoor golf simulator, will open soon, Gabbert said.

Construction on the restaurants, Steel Valley Brew Works and Double Bogey’s Bar and Grill, is done, but because of the need for supplies delayed as a result of national supply chain issues, they can’t open yet, he said.

Saturday’s event also included a petting zoo, pony rides, food, a caricature artist and live entertainment.

Part of DeBartolo Commons is on the site of the former Sears, one of the mall’s first anchor stores when it opened in 1970. Demolition on the Sears property started in September 2019.

Washington Prime Group, which operates Southern Park and about 100 other retail centers throughout the nation, emerged Friday from bankruptcy. It restructured its finances and reduced its debt by nearly $1 billion.

Despite that bankruptcy, Washington Prime continued to work on a $30 million investment at Southern Park with DeBartolo Commons as its centerpiece.

Jenna Hernandez of Boardman, who was at Saturday’s grand opening with her family, said of the new outdoor space: “It’s a great addition to the community. It’s going to bring families together. It was very well thought out. I love coming here.”

Maureen DiMargio of Canfield, also at the Saturday opening, said, “It’s exciting. Thank goodness the mall is still here and they’ve got this addition here. It’s nice to have this in the community. There’s stuff for families and adult stuff too. When the mall got out of bankruptcy, I was very happy. You hate to see our area impacted.”

Nicole Purington of Mineral Ridge, co-owner of The Selfie Space in the mall, said of the outdoor area: “I think it’s amazing. I saw it from the ground up. I drive here every single day. It grew from nothing to this and it’s so cool. We need common space.”

The Selfie Space is an “Instagram playground,” Purington said, offering people a place with 20 different themed backdrops in which to take selfie photos and videos. It opened in May.

“The future of shopping malls is experiences,” Purington said. “At the mall, we’ve got a video game lounge, an art cafe, an escape room. We fit in there.”

[email protected]

Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox