Merle Hay Mall to add Game Day restaurant, arcade entertainment center
A Merle Hay Mall space where a large Rascal Flatts-themed restaurant was once planned will now become an even bigger locally owned restaurant and family entertainment venue.
"Game Day Kitchen - Cocktails - Sports - and Fun" will open in a 13,900-square-foot space near the Flix Brewhouse entrance before the end of the year.
The Dave and Busters-style entertainment center will include state-of-the-art games as well as some classic arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.
Customers will be able to collect game points that can be redeemed for high-dollar prizes.
"It’s not just your army men and Laffy Taffy," said Eric LaClair, Game Day's president. "You can work your way to Xboxes and phones."
Iowa lawmakers approved legislation last year paving the way for entertainment centers like Game Day to open in the state. Dubbed the Dave and Buster's bill, it increased the maximum value for amusement prizes from $100 to $950.
Rumors the Dallas-based restaurant and entertainment center could expanded to Iowa have persisted since the change in state law. West Des Moines officials last year confirmed that an unnamed entertainment center was eyeing locations at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines.
Dave and Buster's has 124 locations in the U.S. and Canada, including spots in Omaha, Kansas City and Minneapolis.
Game Day will move into the space where a Rascal Flatts restaurant was planned. Contractors began renovating the space to accommodate the restaurant last year before the project fell apart.
It was one of several Rascal Flatts restaurants across the country that failed to materialize.
“To the extent you could say we were lucky, we were lucky,” Merle Hay Mall owner Liz Holland told the Register last week.
Game Day will be nearly double the size of the failed Rascal Flatts project. It will also take the Jay's CD and Hobby space on the lower level of the center court. Jay's will move across the hall to a new location in the mall.
"We’re excited to get the project going," said LaClair, a former senior vice president of Granite City Food and Brewery. "We’re very confident it’s going to be a success and help the rejuvenation of Merle Hay Mall."
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The restaurant and bar will seat 300 and have TVs tuned to sports. The menu will include typical sports bar fare as well as flatbreads and salads. An outdoor patio will be open during warmer months.
"You will be able to see any game from any place inside the restaurant," LaClair said.
Game Day is working with a former Dave and Buster's vice president to develop the project, LaClair said. He expects the venue will be a destination for people looking to play games, as well as those stopping in before or after movies at Flix, or to eat while shopping.
"We’re totally unique to the market and the offerings and settings we have with Flix and other items — I think it’s going to be a serious destination again," LaClair said.
The Des Moines metro's malls saw an 11.6 percent decrease in occupancy levels from 2017 to 2018, according to a CBRE/Hubbell Commercial real estate report that came out earlier this month.
Merle Hay Mall lost both Younkers and Sears stores last year. Valley West Mall and Jordan Creek Town Center both lost Younkers stores.
More retailers are shifting to "internet-proof" concepts that focus on shopping experiences like Smash Park, the massive food and sports center that opened in West Des Moines last fall, according the the CBRE/Hubbell Commercial report.
They want businesses that keep consumers in place for long periods, Tyler Dingel, a senior vice president at CBRE, told the Register earlier this month. He said he expected to see that happen at local malls.
In January, Des Moines approved a $4.8 million development agreement to support Merle Hay Mall's redevelopment plans. The city said it wants the mall to attract more convenience retailers for neighborhood shoppers and destination venues that can draw customers from throughout the metro.
Polk County approved a $2.5 million loan to help Merle Hay Mall's owner purchase the vacant anchor spots and redevelop them. The county recently approved another $1 million loan to the mall.
Valley West Mall is working on a redevelopment plan that would add more restaurants and entertainment venues, said Paul Stender, Valley West's general manager.
The "mixed-use" project could take up to 10 years and even include apartments for young professionals, he said.