Playtime at Square

The J.C. Penney Court at Dakota Square Mall will soon become a little more colorful and kid-friendly come Friday. The mall will conduct a grand opening of a zoo-themed children’s play area with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m.

The new play area was developed and created in partnership with the Roosevelt Park Zoo and is sponsored by Scheels. Children and their families can enjoy a variety of craft activities provided by Scheels after the ribbon cutting ceremony. Everyone is invited to enter to win a variety of prize giveaways that include more than a dozen gift cards and a chance to win a 2014 Roosevelt Park Zoo membership. Families can register to win the giveaways at the play area beginning Friday through Sunday and winners need not be present to win.

Ten local businesses have secured partnership as “Friends of the Zoo” to support the play area. They include Mayer Electric, Central Power Electric Cooperative, Dakota Agronomy Partners, Enerbase Cooperative Resources, Souris Valley United Way, Mountrail Williams Electric Cooperative, CHS SunPrairie Grain, Minot Automotive Center, Magic City Figure Skating Club and Verendrye Electric.

Michael Lisagor, general manager of Dakota Square Mall, said the play area was supposed to be delivered Monday and would be set up in time for the grand opening. The play area will have a zoo theme, he added, because 10 percent of the proceeds raised through sponsorships will be going back to the zoo. “We’ve been talking about it (the play area) for the past year and thought the zoo theme would make sense.”

“It has been very exciting to be part of this community partnership with Scheels and the Roosevelt Park Zoo and watch the development of the planned children’s play area progress towards completion,” he added. “We look forward to having the community children and their families enjoy this new play area while supporting a cause to help the zoo.”

The play area will be 900 square feet, and was created by Playtime LLC. It will feature soft foam play pieces and will be a permanent feature for all of the community families to enjoy during their visit to the mall. Animal-designed play pieces and equipment include a zebra, alligator, otters, penguins, buffalo, lion and giraffe. There will also be a 3-D sculptured zookeeper and welcome sign with rules and regulations.

“It will be safe for all kids and will be sanitized each night,” Lisagor noted.

While there won’t be a specific age limit for kids wanting to play at the play area, Lisagor said there will be a height limit and everything is all size related. The play area will be unsupervised, he added, except for parents, and the mall staff will clean and maintain the area.

There will also be rules of conduct provided by Playtime LLC, said Lisagor. No shoes will be allowed on the play equipment or in the play area, as well as no food or drinks. A shoe rack will be provided near the play area entrance. “It’s always tough because we want kids to be kids, but we don’t want them to push it,” he said. “Parents need to be the best judge.”

Lisagor said the J.C. Penney Court was chosen as the location for the play area for its spaciousness. “It’s a good complement of what shoppers want to experience we have shopping, a food court and a play area. We have a very unique group of tenants at the mall.” The nearby pool and waterslide park, Splashdown Dakota, at Sleep Inn & Suites, also contributes to the unique aspect of Dakota Square Mall.

Until fairly recently, there was a basic play area near the food court, Lisagor said, and when it closed, he heard a lot of negative feedback because parents said they needed that break for their kids. “This (the new play area) will be a perfect complement to the mall. We’re hoping it will exceed people’s expectations. Anyone who is a parent will love it.”