West Edmonton Mall (WEM), located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is the largest shopping mall in North America and the fourth largest in the world. It was the world's largest mall for a 23 year period from 1981 until 2004.
West Edmonton Mall covers a gross area of about 570,000 m² and cost C$1.2 billion to build. There are over 800 stores and services and parking for more than 20,000 vehicles. More than 23,000 people are employed at the property. The mall receives 28.2 million visitors per year and between 60,000 and 150,000 shoppers daily depending on the day and season. The mall is currently valued at C$926 million.
The mall's amusement park was originally called Fantasyland, until The Walt Disney Company took the mall to court, claiming ownership of the name, which is used in its theme parks such as Disneyland. WEM lost and subsequently renamed the attraction Galaxyland. Since the name change, they introduced the mall's mascot Cosmo who is the basis for several rides in Galaxyland. The amusement park is located in what used to be referred to as Phase One, although it stretches into the former Phase II. However, the mall was allowed to retain the name Fantasyland Hotel for its on-site hotel. The hotel is a separate building but it is attached to the former Phase III of the mall.
In the early 1990s, the Woodward's department store chain, one of WEM's anchors, went bankrupt, and its locations were purchased by the Hudson's Bay Company. As a result, WEM boasted two full Bay department stores until the late 1990s when one of the locations was closed, leading to a renovation (then known as Phase IV) that added a Famous Players multiplex, a two-floor HMV location (complete with an HMV stage, which has played hosts to autograph signings for bands, Hollywood celebrities and World Wrestling Entertainment superstars), a 12.5 million dollar Playdium entertainment complex/arcade (now closed), an indoor shooting range, a Chapters book store with a Starbucks, as well as several other smaller stores. In 2005, the upstairs space previously occupied by Playdium was rented by three NewCap Radio radio stations: 790 CFCW, K-97 97.3 (Formerly, 97.3 K-Rock), and 96.3 Capital FM (formerly 96.3 Big Earl). The downstairs area is now partially used as a paintball playing area. In 2007, the Famous Players multiplex, formerly known as Silver City, was renamed Scotiabank Theatre.
The closure in the mid 1990s of Canadian Tire (which moved just north of WEM) left a vacancy that sat unfilled until it was converted into a "Chinatown"-themed area in 2002, which includes an Asian supermarket, T & T Supermarket, that takes up the Canadian Tire area.
Throughout the 1990s, the actual store and restaurant count gradually declined to around 600, a result of store expansions, renovations and increasing footprints of today's popular chains. Mall advertising, however, still trumpets the "Over 800 Stores" tagline. Among the exclusive to Edmonton stores are Hollister Co. and Abercrombie & Fitch, along with approximately 10 others.
The mall suffered millions of dollars in damage on July 11, 2004 when a severe storm of hail and rain caused roofs to fail and drains to overflow. The Ice Palace and surrounding sections were the most damaged, and the World Waterpark saw a sewage overflow. The damage was promptly repaired. The Ice Palace has suffered occasional flood damage since as well.
Galaxyland was originally known as Fantasyland, however, during a court battle with Disney, West Edmonton Mall changed the park's name to Galaxyland in July 1995 after completing some minor renovations. It is an indoor amusement park located on the north side of the mall. It is the largest indoor amusement park in the world and features 24 rides and attractions. There are 8 beginner rides, 9 intermediate rides, 7 thrill rides, including the triple loop Mindbender roller coaster, and 5 other "pay at site" rides/games. The Mindbender is the world's largest indoor triple loop roller coaster. The newest attraction in Galaxyland, opened on July 17, 2007, called the Galaxy Orbiter, begins at the Mindbender and intertwines with the entire park. Arguably the second most popular attraction in Galaxyland (after the Mindbender), the Drop of Doom was shut down in the early 2000s. The tower area was replaced shortly after by a more modern launch ride, the Space Shot a S&S Double Shot Tower Ride. Only recently was the loading area replaced by an interactive laser ride based on the theme of the park's mascot, Cosmo. Other popular attractions include the TurboRide 3D Theatre which sits directly underneath the Mindbender, the privately owned Haunted Castle and 3D Fun House (also beneath the Mindbender), the Autosled roller coaster which is a tamer alternative to the Mindbender, the Swing of the Century, and also Galaxy Kids, a large play area for young children.
The World Waterpark is North America's largest indoor waterpark, built in 1985, with a size of over 20,000 m² (5 acres). The park has the world's largest indoor wave pool and is known for its high-speed water slide called the Sky Screamer, which is often mistaken as the park's tallest slide at 24 m (78 ft). The highest slide in the park is the Twister, which is 25.3 m (83 ft) high.
The wavepool has 6 wave bays, each with two panels with a total of generating waves up to two metres high.
The major slides are all on the east side of the park, with a children's play area and change room access behind them. On the west side is a tube ride which has been changed many times over, a three-person inflatable raft slide and the separately owned Bungee Tower where one can bungee jump directly over the wave pool.
Recent renovations brought new signage, a complete resurfacing of the wave pool, and change room upgrades.
West Edmonton Mall has an indoor lake which contains a salt-water habitat with three sea lions and a replica of the Santa María, built during the 1986 World Exposition in Vancouver. The Santa María has been used for an annual Christmas fundraiser, raising toys for underprivileged children. Also, the submarines, a long time favorite, had been replaced with the Deep-Sea Derby, a bumper boat ride with squirt guns, although the area is currently closed and under construction. Deep Sea Adventure is also home to the mall's aquatic life, most of which are housed beneath the main floor in the "Sea Life Caverns". Today, what was once the Dolphin's Lagoon is now the Sea Lions' Rock, with two of the three sea lions (Jazz and Banny) providing the entertainment for the current presentation labeled "Pirates of the Mall"
Ice Palace is a scaled down version of a National Hockey League (NHL) regulation sized ice rink located in the center of the mall. The Edmonton Oilers occasionally practiced at the Ice Palace. This drew huge crowds during the Wayne Gretzky years in the 1980s. The Oilers' contract for using the rink, however, has since expired. The rink is used for various hockey and other sporting tournemants, including a facility for the Annual Edmonton Corporate Challenge.
Professor WEM's Adventure Golf is an 18-hole miniature golf course. The miniature golf course was originally known as Pebble Beach Mini Golf, and was designed to be a mini golf version of Pebble Beach Golf Links. The course was refurbished and given the Professor WEM theme in the mid-1990s.
Originally, the mall was home to three movie theatre complexes. However, as of 2008, only the Scotiabank Theatre, formerly Silver City Famous Players, (with a fire breathing dragon and IMAX screen) is in the mall. Up until recently, a Discount Cinema, owned by Cineplex Odeon was located outside the Phase I entrance to Galaxyland, but it was shut down in 2005 and has since seen the majority of the space it occupied bought out by skateboarding/snowboarding store West 49 which also built an indoor skatepark in the basement. Prior to the opening of Silver City, in the mid 90's there was a Famous Players theatre located near the Palace Casino.
The mall also includes several "theme areas" including:
Currently, a number of large shopping malls, all larger than the West Edmonton Mall, are under construction in China, and the retail centre in Beijing has already displaced the West Edmonton Mall as the world's largest. The SM Mall of Asia, located in Pasay City, Manila, Philippines has also surpassed the mall's gross floor size by 36,000 m². The West Edmonton Mall contains about 800 stores.