Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Xanadu is a Xanadont

Xanadu is looking more and more like a Xanadont. It was conceived at a time when money was flush and the idea of a sports and recreation-centric shopping center (but don't call it a shopping mall) was plausible. Yet, an all too cozy political relationship and an economic downturn has rendered the multibillion dollar facility a monument to folly and excess.

The place is yet to open, and its operators have no date set for when it will do so. One of  its anchor tenants, Cabelas, has withdrawn from the project entirely. Cabelas, an outdoors chain that would have seen Xanadu as its first foray into New Jersey, tucked tail and ran as the project remains mired in limbo. I don't blame them. Had it opened as promised, Xanadu would have given Cabelas a high profile location in the NY metro region and let people realize that it is more than just an outdoors store; it's a destination unto itself. The Xanadu store would have been something to behold:
* A huge mountain replica, the centerpiece of the store's open showroom, with running waterfalls and streams, and trophy animals in re-creations of their distinct habitats. Similar mountains, each called Conservation Mountain, have been built in other Cabela's stores as monuments to wildlife and salutes to the sportsmen and women who support wildlife conservation.
* A 9,000-gallon freshwater aquarium stocked with fish native to the area.
* Museum-quality representations of many wild-game species, including an expansive diorama devoted to African game animals.
* World-class Gun Library™, providing gun collectors and aficionados the opportunity to browse through a collection of examples of the gun-making art.
* Full-service fly-fishing shop, much like a store within a store, with the products - and helpful, experienced staff - for all fly-casters from novice to expert.
* Indoor archery range where archers can test and fine-tune their equipment.
* Bargain Cave, featuring discount prices on returned and discontinued merchandise.

Now, no one knows what to do with the place.

It's exterior design has been ridiculed and it took thousands of parking spots away from those hoping to tailgate before football games or concerts.

It was supposed to open the first indoor ski area, and yet no one has clipped on their skis.

Now, people are wondering whether it would be better to just tear down the whole thing rather than let it sit as a hulking ruin. It is also a huge political liability for anyone connected with the project, and now sits in the lap of Gov. Christie, who has to figure out what to do with the place.

I figure it will eventually open, and its operators may eventually figure out a way to lure other businesses to open there. It might even get the Pepsi Wheel (a 287 foot high Ferris wheel that would be the largest in the US).

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