The Sears store in Citrus Park Town Center was once filled with clothing racks, furniture, appliances and other everyday items.
However, since it closed in 2018, the department store has become completely unrecognizable.
Instead, there’s a go-kart track, a blacklight mini golf course, laser tag, bowling, hundreds of arcade games, and even an esports center.
A new family entertainment center venture called Elev8 Fun has acquired a 128,000-square-foot department store and hopes to revive the shopping mall in a busy suburb north of Tampa.
is set to Open this month After delays due to supply chain issues and rising construction costs.
Let’s take a peek inside.
From the moment you see the former Sears, you can’t miss the huge, colorful ropes course outside the main door.
According to Keith Baldwin, Elev8’s operations manager, the entertainment center received permission from Citrus Park Town Center to locate it in front of its entrance due to its high ceiling restrictions.
Step onto the first floor of the entertainment center to see colorful lights flashing from arcade games and a blacklight mini-golf course, themed around Tampa’s iconic Buccaneer pirates. Omni has a shooter virtual reality game in his arena, where guests use his VR headset and controllers, anchored to a treadmill that detects when gamers are walking and mimics them in-game.
There is also a bowling alley in the back. The space also has a restaurant offering a menu that includes burgers, pizza, chicken wings, and salads.
Elev8 Fun built an esports arena just to check performance. Other attractions are already popular, but being a new community, we don’t know how the arena will work.
“We are trying to be a little bit more useful for everyone,” Baldwin said.
Upstairs you’ll find Elev8 Fun’s biggest attraction, the go-karts.
There are two sets of go-karts that can run a 1/4 mile course.
Professional go-kart drives can reach speeds of 45 mph, while student vehicles for younger children are as slow as 35 mph. Drivers race to set the best times.
Read inspiring stories about mundane life
Subscribe to our free How They Lived newsletter
Every Tuesday, we get to know the memories of a deceased Tampa Bay resident, including heartwarming and entertaining details about their lives.
You are all signed up!
Want a free weekly newsletter added to your inbox? let’s start.
Upstairs also has a bar and laser tag.
Guests can bundle 2 to 4 activities for between $25 and $47 each. Each bundle contains $10 Arcade credits. Rates are different for weekdays and weekends.
Can Elev8Fun bring people back to malls?
Citrus Park Mall The brink of foreclosure during the pandemic.
It was then known as Westfield Citrus Park before shopping mall chain Westfield defaulted on a multi-million dollar loan in 2020.
Sears also struggled and filed for bankruptcy in 2018. We have gone from having hundreds of stores nationwide to just 22 stores.
In recent years, a former Sears shell has been redeveloped at a Tampa Bay shopping mall.
Some are grocery stores, like Whole Foods in the Countryside Mall. Tyrone Square in St. Petersburg demolished Sears to build Dick’s Sporting Goods and Lucky’s His Market. It later became Hitchcock’s Green Market, I expect Aldi to be next.The University Mall also demolished the last Sears store in Tampa in 2020.
PrimeTime Amusements, the South Florida-based company behind Elev8, purchased the former Sears store at 7902 Citrus Park Town Center Mall for $5.5 million in 2019, according to property records. PrimeTime Amusement Owner David Goldfarb told the Tampa Bay Times Last year saw malls having to adapt to survive the rise of internet shopping.
However, his approach is different.
He said providing entertainment will bring his family back.
Citrus Park Elev8 Fun is PrimeTime Amusements’ second location. It’s the first one opened in Sanford.
When asked what the biggest challenge has been since opening in the Orlando area, Baldwin said people were coming to the entertainment center but not staying in the mall as much as expected.
“Unfortunately, people stand by us,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said Elev8 is working to adjust people’s habits to get people hooked on malls.
PrimeTime Amusements plans to open more stores throughout Florida, targeting Jensen Beach on the Treasure Coast, then the Miami area and Jacksonville. Baldwin said there are no plans yet to add another location in the Tampa Bay area.
“We’re still posting COVID,” Baldwin said. “People are very trapped and want new social experiences, and this is the perfect model for that.”