POLO PARK CENTRE
Portage Avenue / Manitoba Highway 1 and St. James Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba


Among the earliest open-air malls in Canada's Western Provinces was Manitoba's POLO PARK CENTRE. The complex was built on 60 acres, located 2.1 miles west of centre city Winnipeg. 

Designed by the firm of Green, Blankenstein, Russell & Associates, the centre was developed by a joint venture of Toronto-based Simpsons-Sears and David Slater, Limited. The developers had officially announced plans for a west Winnipeg shopping centre project in April 1954, but it was January 1958 before actual construction got underway. 

Consisting of a main level of retail and basement, POLO PARK CENTRE would feature forty-one stores and services. A 2-level (256,200 square foot) Simpsons-Sears opened for business May 6, 1959. The dedication of the mall proper began August 20, 1959 and was followed by a 3-day grand opening extravaganza.

The original store directory included Zellers, Pennington's, Reitman's, Broadway Florists, Fashionette Hairstylists, Perth's Dry Cleaning, Tip Top Tailors, the United Cigar Store, an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10 and Dominion and Loblaws supermarkets.

Open mallways were decorated with seven abstract sculptures, including depictions of acrobats and a polo pony. At the north end of the complex, between the two supermarkets, stood a wooden creation. A court at the southeast corner of the complex featured a work known as the Equatorial Sundial. A 146 foot mosaic graced the facade of Simpsons-Sears.

Montreal-based Fairview Shopping Centres, Limited established majority ownership of POLO PARK CENTRE in 1963. In September, plans were announced for the enclosure of the complex. This would be the second time in the nation's history that a heretofore open-air shopping venue would be converted to an indoor format. The first such endeavor had been undertaken at British Columbia's PARK ROYAL CENTRE in 1962.

A second renovation of POLO PARK CENTRE got underway in February 1967. The two north end supermarkets were relocated to new quarters on the east side of the shopping centre, with the original stores being sectioned into fifteen tenant spaces. A 2-level (212,000 square foot) Toronto-based Eaton's was dedicated May 2, 1968. It now anchored the north end of POLO PARK CENTRE. 


The mall's first motion picture venue, the Pace Twin Cinema, had been installed in the basement level of the shopping hub. It showed its first features in June 1962. In an unorthodox move, The Famous Players circuit purchased the Pace Twin and renovated it into the single-screen Cinema Polo Park. This venue opened in 1969.

In the late 1970s, the interior of the mall was given a facelift, which included skylights, landscaping and a new Centre Court fountain.

Retail rivals of POLO PARK CENTRE were all located within the corporate limits of Winnipeg. The first was GRANT PARK CENTRE (1962) {2.1 miles southeast}, then GARDEN CITY CENTRE (1970) {4.8 miles northeast}, UNICITY FASHION SQUARE (1975) {4.8 miles west}, ST. VITAL CENTRE (1979) {5.2 miles southeast} and KILDONIAN PLACE (1980) {6.1 miles northeast}.

All of the competition initiated yet another renovation of the POLO PARK property. Costing upwards of 75 million dollars, the project got underway in 1984 and added a second level to the existing mall. New skylights, escalators, quarry tile flooring and a glass elevator were installed, as was the 8-bay Food Gallery culinary complex.

A new East Wing was also built which included a (40,000 square foot) Safeway supermarket on Level 1, Bretton's and Zellers stores on Level 2 and an adjacent parking deck. The remodeled retail hub was re-dedicated August 13, 1986. It now encompassed over 1 million leasable square feet and housed one hundred and eighty stores and services.

Several years later, the single-screen cinema in the basement of the mall was replaced by a larger, state-of-the-art motion picture venue. The Famous Players Silver City Polo Park, built as a northwest outparcel, featured 14-screens and opened for business December 3, 1999. It was accompanied by an adjacent parking deck.

Anchor rebrandings at POLO PARK CENTRE began 
on May 31, 1984, when Simpsons-Sears received a bona fide Sears nameplate. Eaton's, which was acquired by Sears, was temporarily shuttered in the autumn of 1999. It became one of eighteen Sears / Eaton's "urban concept stores", which debuted in the autumn of 2000. 

This retail experiment was something of an unmitigated disaster, with all stores being shuttered February 23, 2002. The POLO PARK location re-opened, as The Bay, in 2003.

The freestanding Sears Auto Centre closed in June 2003. It was demolished and replaced by a 3-unit (26,800 square foot) outparcel which housed Joey's Grill Lounge and Cabana Bar, EQ3 (furniture & accessories) and Pier 1 Imports.

A remodeling and expansion was done to POLO PARK between 2006 and 2008. 30 million dollars was spent on new floors, signage and interior features. 
A new Main Entrance was built onto the southeast corner of the mall, creating 20,000 square feet of new retail and restaurant space. Moreover, The Food Gallery was expanded to 17 bays and Zellers enlarged into a 97,200 square foot operation. 

Safeway's shuttering, in December 2008, created space for two new tenants; BCBG Maxazria and XXI Forever. The latter opened a 37,000 square foot store on March 5, 2011.

Hudson's Bay Company announced a department store name change in March 2013. All "The Bay" locations would be known, henceforth, as Hudson's Bay (Francophone stores would officially become La Baie D'Hudson).

The 2011 purchase of Zeller's stores, by the American Target chain, was to bring Target into the POLO PARK mall. However, the old 97,200 square foot Zellers was deemed too small to accommodate the Minneapolis merchandiser's plans. 


It was decided to build an all-new Target on the site of the old Winnipeg-Canad Inn Stadium, just north of the mall. The 144,000 square foot discount emporium was to consist of 2 levels, with the first being dedicated to covered parking. Business commenced October 17, 2014...and ended less than 6 months later, on April 12, 2015.

POLO NORTH, a 3-level (210,000 square foot) office and retail complex, was built on the site of the demolished Winnipeg Arena (1955-2006). The first tenant, a 1-level (28,000 square foot) Marshalls discount apparel store, began business April 4, 2013. This was followed by the grand openings of adjacent Mark's Work Wearhouse and Bed, Bath & Beyond locations. 


As for the vacant Zellers on the mall's second level, it was sectioned into seventeen inline store spaces; these accessed from a new loop mallway. Tenants in the renovated Zellers area included Teavana, Anthropologie, The Disney Store, Thomas Sabo, Fossil, Nine West and Urban Outfitters. 

The first stores on the loop mallway opened for business October 1, 2014, in conjunction with the dedication of a 49 million dollar interior facelift of the property. This project included the installation of new skylights, soft-seating areas and a renovation of existing restrooms. The official name of the shopping hub was also changed to CF POLO PARK. With this renovation, the mall proper encompassed 1,202,000 leasable square feet, with a retail roster of approximately two hundred stores and services. 

Sources:

"Polo Park Centre" article on Wikipedia 
http://wbi.lib.umanitoba.ca (University of Manitoba Building Annex) 
www.cadillacfairview.com
www.polopark.ca
www.retailinsider.com