The Life, Death, and Rebirth of Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN

The Dawn of Woodmar Mall

Once upon a time, in 1954, Woodmar Mall opened its doors to the public. Located between 165th Street and 167th Street on Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond, Indiana, this mall was the talk of the town. Developed by Landau & Heyman and designed by architect Victor Gruen, it was a marvel of its time.

The mall started small but ambitious, with eight stores ready to serve the community. But that was just the beginning. By May of that year, 14 more stores had joined the lineup, making it a bustling hub for shoppers.

Victor Gruen, the architect, had a vision. He designed the mall in a “V” shape, placing a Carson Pirie Scott and Co. store in the center. This design was aesthetically pleasing and functional, guiding shoppers naturally through the mall.

What was the total cost of constructing this shopping paradise? A cool $3 million, a significant investment at the time. But it was worth every penny. The mall quickly became a go-to spot for families, friends, and anyone looking to spend a day shopping and socializing.

Carson Pirie Scott and Co. made a grand entrance into Indiana through Woodmar Mall. The store opened its doors on November 1, 1954, and quickly became the anchor tenant, drawing crowds from near and far.

So, why was Woodmar Mall so special? It was a blend of thoughtful design, a wide variety of stores, and a central location that made it a hit. It was the place to be, and for a while, it seemed like nothing could go wrong.

The Carson Pirie Scott Era

Carson Pirie Scott and Co. wasn’t content with being just another store in the mall. In 1964, the store expanded from its original 65,000 square feet to a whopping 115,000 square feet. They even added a third floor!

This expansion was a big deal. It meant more products, space, and, of course, more shoppers. The store became a magnet, pulling people into the mall and boosting foot traffic for other retailers.

The store from Carson’s marked the Chicago-based retailer’s first venture into Indiana. It was a significant milestone, not only for the store but also for Woodmar Mall. It solidified the mall’s status as a retail powerhouse in the region.

Carson's store
Carson’s store

But Carson’s wasn’t just about shopping. It was a part of the community. People met there, socialized, and made memories. It was more than a store; it was a social hub, a part of the local culture.

However, even with Carson’s drawing in the crowds, the mall knew it had to keep evolving to stay relevant. And evolve it did, but not without its share of challenges and setbacks.

So, while Carson’s was the shining star of Woodmar Mall, it was also a reflection of the mall’s journey of growth, adaptation, and an ever-changing retail landscape.

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Innovations and Additions

Innovation was the name of the game for Woodmar Mall. In September 1975, the mall introduced the “Court of Lions,” a mini-mall within the mall. This new section took over the space left vacant by J.J. Newberry and was a hit from day one.

The Court of Lions was unique. Its design took inspiration from Granada, Spain’s Court of the Lions, lending it a touch of the exotic. This mini-mall generated three times the rent that Newberry’s had provided and saw its revenues increase by 50% over the next three years.

Woodmar Mall
Woodmar Mall

But the mall didn’t stop there. In 1977, another mini-mall called the “Court of Turtles” opened. This one took over the space initially occupied by National Supermarkets. Like its predecessor, the Court of Turtles succeeded, adding another layer of diversity to the mall’s offerings.

In the early 1980s, plans were in place to add two more anchor stores. However, these plans were shelved due to a recession and high-interest rates. It was a setback but not the end of the road for Woodmar Mall.

In 1987, the mall underwent a significant renovation. Completed in 1990, this facelift refreshed the mall, making it more appealing to new shoppers.

The Decline of Woodmar Mall

Every story has its ups and downs, and Woodmar Mall was no exception. By the early 2000s, the mall faced stiff competition from River Oaks Center in Calumet City, Illinois, and Southlake Mall in Hobart, Indiana.

In 2004, the mall hit a low point. Fewer than a dozen stores remained open, and the once-bustling corridors were now eerily quiet. The mall was a shadow of its former self, and something had to be done.

In February 2006, the call was made to tear down the mall, except for the Carson’s store. It was a tough call, but sometimes, you must tear down the old to build something new.

The Carson’s store remained open, a lone survivor in a sea of rubble and memories. But even that couldn’t last forever. The store closed its doors in 2018, a part of its parent company’s liquidation.

The site lay dormant for a while but not forgotten. Plans for constructing a $12 million sports complex on the old mall’s site were unveiled by the Hammond Redevelopment Commission in June 2016.

And so, the stage was set for a new beginning. A rebirth, if you will, but this time, not as a mall. The land that once housed Woodmar Mall was about to undergo a transformation that would once again make it a community focal point.

The Hammond Sportsplex & Community Center

Fast forward to September 2018, and the Hammond Sportsplex & Community Center was officially opened. This wasn’t just another sports facility but a state-of-the-art, 135,000-square-foot behemoth built at $18 million.

The Sportsplex is a sports lover’s dream. It has six basketball courts that can be converted into ten volleyball courts. Soccer fan? Two regulation-sized soccer fields can also serve as an indoor baseball field. And that’s not all. There are six indoor batting cages, an elevated walking track, and an observation deck.

But the Sportsplex is more than a place for sports. It has a common area for community events, a concession area, and changing rooms. It’s a place where the community can unite, much like Woodmar Mall once was.

The facility has a packed schedule, with reservations filling up every weekend. These reservations span local, regional, and national events, turning the place into a bustling activity center.

As for the impact on local commerce, the facility is seen as a lucrative opportunity. It attracts visitors from the local and broader regions, including the greater Chicagoland area.

In short, the Hammond Sportsplex & Community Center is not just a sports facility; it’s a community center where people can come together, make memories, and maybe even discover a new passion.

Hammond Sportsplex
Hammond Sportsplex

The Community’s Perspective

The Hammond Sportsplex symbolizes community resilience and transformation. The community now has a venue for new opportunities for the younger generation’s previously unavailable opportunities.

The facility is located in a district where the sentiment is overwhelmingly positive. It’s described as exceptional, with anticipation and excitement for the future.

The Sportsplex has already become a part of the local culture. It’s a place where athletes can compete with the state’s best, families can spend quality time together, and the community can gather for events.

So, what’s next for the Hammond Sportsplex? Well, the sky’s the limit. With various programs on offer, it’s set to become a cornerstone of community life in Hammond.

In a way, the story of Woodmar Mall and the Hammond Sportsplex is a story of the Hammond community: a story of change, resilience, and a bright future.

And so, dear reader, why not visit this remarkable facility the next time you’re in Hammond? Who knows, it might just become your new favorite place.

Conclusion

The story of Woodmar Mall is a tale of rise, fall, and rebirth. From its early days as a bustling shopping center to its transformation into a state-of-the-art sports facility, it has been a focal point of the Hammond community.

The Hammond Sportsplex & Community Center is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of this community. It’s a place that has managed to capture the spirit of Woodmar Mall, offering a new generation a space to come together, make memories, and celebrate life.

And so, as we close this chapter, let’s look forward to the many stories yet to be written, the memories yet to be made, and the community yet to be built. After all, the best is yet to come.

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