Editor’s note: This story was initially published on December 23, 2019.
No matter how you feel about consumer culture or shopping malls in general, you can’t deny that Park City Center has been a huge part of life in Lancaster County for over 50 years.
That’s long enough that children who sat on Santa’s lap in the mall’s first years might have grandchildren sitting on Santa’s lap at Park City this year.
So as the holiday shopping season ramps up once again, we thought we’d take a look through the LNP archives to see what we could learn — or what we might have forgotten — about the county’s largest enclosed shopping center.
Here’s what we found:
The official grand opening for Park City was in September of 1971, but several stores chose to open early. Anchor store JC Penney opened in July 1970 and was the only store open at that time. Two more anchors followed in September of that year: Watt & Shand and Gimbels (which later became Pomeroy’s, which later still became Boscov’s). The last of the initial four anchor stores, Sears, opened in 1972.
Yes, you could go ice skating at Park City. About a month after the mall’s grand opening, the ice-skating rink opened in the lower-level space which is now occupied by the food court. The ice rink cost a half-million dollars and featured public skating hours as well as youth hockey leagues and figure skating instruction. In later years, the ice rink was converted to a roller rink.
The “wheel spokes” layout of Park City is an unusual configuration for a shopping mall. Equally unusual was the seasonal theming of the longer spokes, each of which leads to an anchor store. When Park City opened, the Spring Mall, Summer Mall, Autumn Mall and Winter Mall each featured a color palette and plastic foliage appropriate to its season. As an added bonus, the Winter Mall (now the JC Penney Mall) allowed customers to look down through a window in the floor to watch the skaters on the ice rink below.
In January 1972, a few months after the ice rink opened, Four Seasons Golf set up shop right next to it, in a portion of the lower-level space that is now occupied by Kohl’s. It was owned by a group of four Lancaster County golf pros and was open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
The marketing materials circulated by Park City’s developers for its opening in 1971 touted “100 new modern stores.” Though some weren’t ready for customers on opening day, the full list did open within the next couple of months. Seven of those 100 stores and restaurants still exist in the mall today – eight if you count Hickory Farms, which no longer has a permanent location, but opens a kiosk for the holidays. Can you guess which seven of the mall’s current 172 businesses were Park City originals? Click here for the answer.
For some reason, Park City was originally carpeted. The 20,000-yard carpeted space made the mall one of the world’s largest carpet installations at the time. After years of spilled soda, ice cream and general dirt and grime, the carpets were removed during the mall’s first major renovation, in November 1980.
From 1971 to 1985, you could catch a movie at Park City. The RKO Century Theater was a two-screen movie house located on the lower level of the mall. The first film shown there in 1971 was “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. By the end of its days, the theater was showing second-run films on one screen and X-rated movies on the other. The films showing on Aug. 11, 1985 – the theater’s final day – were “Nasty Lady” on the adult side and “Witness” – the Harrison Ford film shot largely in Lancaster County – on the second-run side.
Park City has undergone several massive renovation projects over the years – major upgrades occurred in 1980, 1985, 1989, 1997, 2005 and 2008. the 1989 renovation included the addition of the fabric tent over the mall’s center court. The tent is made of the same material that covers domed football stadiums around the country, but while those roofs are supported by air pressure, Park City’s hangs from masts.
“Birds in Flight,” a modern piece made of 3,000 feet of copper tubing welded together, was the centerpiece of the fountain, which itself was the centerpiece of the mall’s hub area. It was designed by Stan Lipman, a local artist and instructor at Manheim Township High School.
In 1985, the oft-repurposed lower level of the mall was given what would be its final major overhaul – the area which over the years had housed an ice rink, bumper cars, miniature golf course, movie theaters, farmer’s market and flea market was remodeled into a spacious food court and a fifth anchor store – Clover, which then became Kohl’s. Park City’s marketing department had to explain the concept of a food court, however – though the first food court appeared in Paramus, New Jersey, a decade earlier, the term “food court” wasn’t commonly known.
In 1971, Park City opened with a TV studio in-house. The studios of former CBS affiliate WLYH were on the premises, and futuristic “TV pods” were located throughout the mall, showing commercials as well as live and recorded programming on a closed-circuit channel.
So, how much of that did you remember? Is there something you recall that we forgot about? Let us know in the comments!
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