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East Bay mall gets massive entertainment complex

March 08,2017 04:24

NEWARK — As malls increasingly add activities and dining options to their retail offerings, the recently renovated NewPark Mall is about to unveil a massive new entertainment complex that is slated to bring hundreds of jobs to the area. John's ...

NEWARK — As malls increasingly add activities and dining options to their retail offerings, the recently renovated NewPark Mall is about to unveil a massive new entertainment complex that is slated to bring hundreds of jobs to the area.
John’s Incredible Pizza, a California-based chain of family entertainment centers, is expanding its footprint and opening its first location in the East Bay.
The 65,000-square-foot indoor center is under construction at NewPark Mall, where it will bring roughly 100 games, rides and other attractions, as well as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Food comes first for the company, which is based in Rancho Santa Margarita and has 12 locations, including the new Newark one, said owner and founder John Parlet. The buffet features mostly made-from-scratch items, including its pizzas, which regularly come in new “crazy” flavors like spicy peanut butter, he said.
The complex has arcade games and rides, including a ride called  “Twister” that spins riders around, bumper cars and a prize counter to cash in tickets for rewards. Guests buy tickets for admission that include the buffet food, and can buy credits for the games and activities. Adult tickets cost $11.49, while children’s prices range from free (for kids under 2) to $7.29.
It is the latest addition to a renovation at the Newark mall that has also included a new restaurant pavilion, a new common area with soft-seating and tables, enhanced entrances with big signage, new flooring and lighting, new escalators and elevators, and a slew of new retailers and restaurants.
The renovation comes after a decade in which the shopping center suffered from vacancies. It’s not the only local mall to reinvent itself. Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord last year unveiled a massive entertainment center, Round 1, that followed the opening of its food court and new retail openings. Hilltop mall in Richmond is expected to undergo a major redevelopment after its sale is complete, and even the already successful outdoor Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek is completing the final phases of a $250 million redevelopment.
Offering attractions like entertainment and dining is one way malls are trying to attract millennial generation shoppers, say retail experts. As traditionally mall-based retailers like Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney struggle, there is more space to add entertainment and an inclination to diversify the activities available at the mall.
And retail experts have found  that millennials spend more on experiences and dining than previous generations, and with more retail moving online, dining and entertainment options lure consumers to shopping centers that have them.
“No longer just a place to shop, shopping centers are becoming key activity centers in the social fabric of communities, elevating their purpose beyond simply offering an outlet to buy groceries or pick up a new blouse,” consumer research firm Nielsen wrote in a 2014 report.
Parlet, who founded John’s Incredible Pizza in 1997, said he has seen increased demand for his concept from mall operators “in a huge way.”
“Years ago, I couldn’t get people to return my calls, and now they’re calling me,” he explained, adding that big box store footprints left empty are a good place to stick entertainment centers like his. NewPark mall operators Rouse Properties contacted him a few years ago, and the project has been in the works for about three years.
He’s excited to open in the Bay Area. The Newark location will be the company’s first concept in the region and the largest overall. The center will employ about 200 people. A specific opening day is still unknown, as the company makes last-minute touches and awaits final approvals, but Parlet said it will likely be in the next two weeks.

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