Summit Park Mall’s Journey in Wheatfield, NY: From Mall to Sports Complex

The Early Years: A Hub of Activity and Connection

In the bustling era of the 1970s, Summit Park Mall opened its doors in Wheatfield, New York. It quickly became more than just a shopping center; it was a place where families gathered, teenagers hung out, and the community connected. The mall symbolized modernity and prosperity, with many stores and entertainment options.

The mall’s design and architecture reflected the times, with spacious corridors and innovative features that attracted shoppers from near and far. It was a place where one could find the latest fashion, enjoy a meal with friends, or wander through the stores, enjoying the ambiance.

However, the success of Summit Park Mall was not merely a product of its physical attributes. It was the sense of community and connection that genuinely set it apart. Local events, seasonal decorations, and community-driven initiatives made the mall vibrant and lively.

As the years went by, the mall continued to thrive, adapting to the changing trends and consumer preferences. It was not just a place to shop; it became a reflection of the local culture and a testament to the spirit of Wheatfield.

Anchors, Renaming, and Milestones: The Summit’s Evolving Identity

The original mall’s anchor stores were Sears, AM&A’s (later bought out by The Bon-Ton), Hens & Kelly, and Jenss. Other significant tenants included Child World and McCrory. Hens & Kelly moved out in 1982, and Macy’s opened its first closeout store in the space in 1992.

In 2004, a local developer purchased the mall for $5 million and renamed it The Summit. At that point, the mall was 65% vacant. New tenants were added, including Steve & Barry’s, in 2005. The mall’s sales increased by 18% in 2007, but Steve & Barry’s closed in 2008.

The Decline: The Summit’s Struggles and Closure

Specific events and challenges marked the decline of The Summit. By the late 1990s, the mall was 40% vacant. Jenss closed in 1998, and the mall’s owners expressed interest in converting portions to office space.

Summit Park Mall
Summit Park Mall” by Roadgeek Adam is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In May 2009, the mall’s owners announced that the mall would close on June 6 following bankruptcy protection filing. The mall was allowed to stay open beyond this date, but many tenants relocated. By August 2009, only Sears, The Bon-Ton, and Save-A-Lot remained operational.

In January 2013, the mall building was flooded with up to six inches of water from a pipe, believed to be an act of vandalism. In March 2014, Zoran Cocov purchased the mall for $4.2 million, revealing plans to revive the space but faced challenges and delays.

In 2018, both Sears and Bon-Ton began liquidation sales, marking the final ceasing of the mall as an operating retail complex.

The decline of The Summit was a complex and specific chapter in the history of Wheatfield, NY, reflecting broader changes in the retail industry and the unique challenges faced by this particular mall. The loss of anchor tenants, economic challenges, and the rise of online shopping all contributed to its eventual closure, leaving a significant void in the community.

Summit Park Mall
Summit Park Mall” by Roadgeek Adam is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A New Vision: The NISE Project and the Rebirth of Summit Park Mall

A new vision emerged for Summit Park Mall in the shadow of decline. The Niagara International Sports & Entertainment (NISE) project was conceived, transforming the mall into a sports and entertainment complex.

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The project was spearheaded by Canadian developer Zoran Cocov, who saw potential in the vacant space. The redevelopment included the creation of batting cages, pitching lanes, basketball and volleyball courts, and even an area for dek hockey.

The NISE project was not just about sports but about creating a space where people could connect and engage in a safe and structured environment. The plan included new businesses like a brewery and pizza place, and the transformation was expected to take two to three years.

The community responded positively, with hundreds of kids and families engaging with the new facilities. The mall was once again becoming a place of activity and connection, but this time focusing on sports and entertainment.

Community Impact: More Than Just a Sports Complex

The transformation of Summit Park Mall into the Niagara International Sports & Entertainment Center was not just about sports; it was about community. The project created jobs, stimulated the local economy, and provided a space for people to engage in healthy and active lifestyles.

The impact was felt beyond the walls of the mall. The redevelopment inspired other communities to look at vacant mall spaces as opportunities for growth and revitalization.

The NISE Center became a symbol of innovation and adaptability, showing that with vision and determination, even a derelict shopping mall could be transformed into a world-class facility.

The community’s engagement with the NISE Center was a testament to the power of collaboration and the importance of creating spaces that resonate with the needs and aspirations of the people.

Summit Park Mall
Summit Park Mall” by Roadgeek Adam is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Current Offerings and Future Prospects: A Destination for All

Today, the NISE Center is a thriving destination, offering various sports and recreational activities. The center caters to athletes, families, and visitors from batting cages to an outdoor sports field complex.

Slated for the fall of 2023 opening, The Play University will enhance the center by introducing an immersive playpark. This unique space is crafted to foster children’s development through engaging and active play.

The future looks bright for the NISE Center, with ongoing construction and plans for further expansion. The developers anticipate that the athletic functions will attract around 990,000 visitors, a number that is likely to increase with the integration of additional events and activities.

The transformation of Summit Park Mall is a story of resilience, innovation, and community. It is a reminder that even in the face of decline, there is potential for growth and renewal.

Summit Park Mall
Summit Park Mall” by Roadgeek Adam is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Conclusion: A Symbol of Resilience and Community

The story of Summit Park Mall reflects the broader trends and changes that have shaped the retail landscape. From a bustling shopping center to a derelict space and, finally, to a revitalized sports and entertainment complex, the mall’s journey is a testament to the power of vision, adaptability, and community engagement.

The NISE Center is more than just a sports complex; it symbolizes what is possible when we look beyond the obvious and see the potential in the spaces around us. It is a reminder that despite challenges, there is opportunity for growth, connection, and renewal.

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