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Why Old Malls are Becoming New Sports Complexes

Guest post written by Cameron Connelly, Content Marketing Intern, The Sports Facilities Companies. 

They had a good run, but with the rise of online shopping paired with the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic created for retail spaces, malls struggle to remain profitable. This is terrible news for teenagers and anyone with an Auntie Anne’s addiction, but it presents a golden opportunity for investors. Malls typically occupy a desirable plot of land that is spacious but still centrally located and easily accessible from a major roadway with ample parking. Such a large blank canvas attracts investors from nearly every industry, so why are so many of these malls being converted to youth sports venues?

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Live, Work, or Play?

With Coresight Research estimating that 25% of America’s malls will close down in the next three to five years, that leaves a lot of opportunity for redevelopment projects. Malls typically make for a prime location for office buildings, apartment complexes, or mixed-use developments but many of them are instead being turned into youth sports venues. Part of the reason that sports venues are able to beat out the competition is the changing work environment. Working from home has become more popular than ever and, suddenly, even the largest companies are looking to move to smaller satellite offices as opposed to one large office building. This shift has reduced the number of entities trying to redevelop malls into office spaces which leaves apartment complexes and youth sports venues to fight for the space.

Mall Layout

The typical layout of most malls makes them an ideal location for an outdoor sports venue. The vast expanse of parking lots can be turned into baseball, soccer, or football fields while the actual mall building can be repurposed to house the facility’s lobby, concession stand, merchandise store, restrooms, and storage. Because the mall parking lots typically wrap around the building it means that the fields can be nicely spaced out but remain close to the building and its amenities. All the parking that a mall offers also means that there should be ample parking spaces left even after converting parts of the parking lots to field space.

Success Stories

Ballparks of America, in Branson, MO, was ahead of its time in terms of mall redevelopment with the construction of the facility starting back in 2014 and it is a fantastic example of what it can look like. The facility offers five baseball fields that are each a 2/3rd replica of an iconic American baseball field and the building features concessions, a restaurant, an ice cream shop, a pro shop, and restrooms. There are also dormitories on the property that allow teams to stay at the facility during tournaments. These many amenities make it a premiere spot for youth baseball events bringing in teams and their families from all over the country.

If you have an idea for the next great youth sports venue but you can’t find the space for it, you may want to check out your nearest mall. It may end up being the perfect spot to build the kind of dreams that Build-A-Bear couldn’t handle. If you need help with any part of the process from pre-development to facility management then feel free to contact us or give us a call at (727) 474-3845.

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