Cary Towne Center will unveil its $1 million investment on Saturday - a new indoor playground featuring all manner of soft play toys for young kids to climb all over.
At 2,000-square-feet, the playground, across from Dave & Busters, Belk and Gymboree, is the largest mall playground for CBL & Associates Properties, the mall's owners and one of the largest mall property owners in the country. The popular playground at Triangle Town Center, which will reopen Sept. 6 after an upgrade, is 900-square-feet, by comparison.
Cary Towne's playground has a music, art, dance and literature theme. Eleven large, soft play pieces will be scattered across a colorful themed rug. It's sponsored by Raleigh-based celito.net, which will provide free wifi throughout the mall by the end of the year.
Kids will be able to climb inside a ballet shoe and slide down another one; crawl under a keyboard; and climb up a blob of paint, for instance. A circle of soft, cherry red benches serves as a border between the play area and the rest of the mall. The new play area, like those at other malls, is designed for babies to preschoolers.
Josh Harmon, the mall's general manager and a father of two, said the addition is part of an effort to makeover the aging mall in an area where new and different kinds of shopping options are popping up and to make it more family friendly. A carousel, kiddie train, indoor bungee jumping and coin-operated rides remain.
"We want to continue to improve the mall as a community center and make it a place for families to shop," he said.
Five retail spaces were torn down to make way for the playground and open up this corner of the mall. Skylights and other lighting were added to give it an open, airy feel. A handful of kiosks will be near the playground, including a Doc Popcorn franchise. Pretzel Twister, an existing kiosk, will undergo a remodel in the next month or so. And Harmon hopes to fill a remaining kiosk with a specialty food vendor, such as a smoothie maker.
Cary Towne Center will celebrate the playground's grand opening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday. Activities include a Fit Kids Challenge, kinetic sand station; a message in a bottle activity with local artist Helen Seebold; free train rides; face painting; refreshments; special offers and door prizes.
The event is free. Play at the playground is always free.