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


One of 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 featured 41 stores and services. A 2-level (256,200 square foot) Simpsons-Sears opened for business May 6, 1959. A Loblaws Groceteria began business June 17. 


A mall-wide dedication was held August 20, 1959, officiated by Duff Roblin, Premier of Manitoba, and Stephen Juba, Mayor of Winnipeg. This was followed by a 3-day grand opening extravaganza, which included pony rides, clowns, door prizes and a high-wire trapeze act.

Some of the mall's charter stores were 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 supermarket.

Common areas featured several works of art; these created by 4 local artisans. "Equatorial Sundial", by Duane W. Eichols and Jim S. Willer, stood in a plaza at the south end of the complex. Over the east mall entry was "2 Cocks Rising", with "Owl Preparing For Flight" suspended over the west. These hanging screens were done by Jim S. Willer.


At the center of the centre, in a reflecting pool, was "Acrobats", an abstract work sculpted by George Swinton. The north end of the main mall featured 2 sculptures. "Birds In A Bluff" and "Mock Wall" were created by Richard Williams.

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 that an open-air shopping venue in Canada would be converted to an indoor format. The first 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 north end supermarkets were relocated to new quarters on the east side of the centre. The original stores were sectioned into 15 tenant spaces, these adjacent to a new 2-level (212,000 square foot), Toronto-based Eaton's. This store was dedicated on May 2, 1968.


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. The Famous Players circuit purchased the Pace Twin and renovated it into the single-screen Cinema Polo Park. This venue opened in 1968.

In the late 1970s, the interior of the mall was given a face lift, which included skylights, landscaping and a new Centre Court fountain. At this time, the mall housed 79 stores and services.

Competing shopping centres in the POLO PARK trade area were all located in 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 the competition initiated a 75 million dollar renovation of the POLO PARK property. 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. This 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 revitalized retail hub was dedicated August 13, 1986. It now encompassed over 1 million leasable square feet and housed 180 stores and services.

The single-screen cinema in the basement of the mall was replaced by a larger, state-of-the-art venue in the late 1990s. The Famous Players Silver City Polo Park was built as a northwest outparcel. It featured 14-screens and an adjacent parking deck. The first features were shown on December 3, 1999.

Anchor rebrandings at POLO PARK CENTRE had begun in August 1973, 
when the Simpsons-Sears nameplate was truncated to "Sears". Stores in the Eaton's chain were acquired by Sears and shuttered in the autumn of 1999. 

The POLO PARK location became one of 18 Sears / Eaton's "urban concept stores", which debuted in autumn of the year 2000. This retail experiment was something of an unmitigated disaster, with all stores being permanently shuttered on February 23, 2002. The POLO PARK store re-opened, as The Bay, in 2003. 

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

A 30 million dollar remodeling and expansion was done to POLO PARK between 2006 and 2008. New flooring, signage and interior features were installed. 
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 2 new tenants; one being BCBG Maxazria. A (37,000 square foot) XXI Forever opened on March 5, 2011.

Hudson's Bay Company announced a 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 (97,200 square foot) Zellers was deemed too small to accommodate a store operated by the Minneapolis merchandiser. 


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 consisted 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, began business April 4, 2013. This was followed by the grand openings of adjacent Mark's Work Wearhouse and Bed, Bath & Beyond stores. 


As for the vacant Zellers on the mall's second level, it was sectioned into 17 inline store spaces; these accessed from a new loop mallway. Tenants in the renovated area included Teavana, Anthropologie, The Disney Store, Thomas Sabo, Fossil, Nine West and Urban Outfitters. 

Stores opened for business October 1, 2014, in conjunction with the dedication of a 49 million dollar, mall-wide face lift. This project installed new skylights and soft-seating areas and renovated the centre's restrooms. 

There were now approximately 1,202,000 leasable square feet and 200 stores and services. As part of a nation-wide rebranding campaign, the mall's official name was changed to CF POLO PARK, with the modification becoming effective on September 21, 2015. 

The Silver City megaplex was rebranded as the Scotiabank Theatre Winnipeg in the fall of 2016. Sears, a charter 1959 mall tenant, went dark on January 21, 2018.

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
www.cinematreasures.org