With some time to kill before dinner on Friday, we made the most of my conference hotel and venue being on the north edge of Calgary and merged with the weekend traffic towards Balzac.
CrossIron Mills, which holds the distinction of being the largest single-level shopping complex in Alberta, has put Balzac on the map, for better or for worse. Driving into the mall, Mack commented that the surrounding grey, bulldozed landscape reminded him of Mars – barren and void of life. I had to agree, but I am certain that within a year, the empty space will be populated with other big box retail.
Similar to other malls in Calgary like Chinook, anchor tenants are accessible via their own external entrances. This provides great convenience for the focused shopper, though as the centre’s location isn’t really that conducive to a quick stop, the gateways are rendered less effective.
The mall is divided into six “neighbourhoods”: fashion, ranch, resources, fossil, sport and to come in 2010, entertainment. Each district has a décor scheme that ties that distinguishes that particular wing, with a seating area highlighting the theme.
In the ranch neighbourhood
Sport seating area (with LCD panels up above, and replica trophies)
Pro Hockey Life‘s stick cluster
As far as shops go however, there aren’t that many unique retailers. Jim commented that Cork is a decent wine shop, and I noted that the South St. Burger Co. looks like it is worth checking out, but the majority of stores can be found elsewhere, within transit-accessible city borders.
Mack keeping cool in a pod chair (I can’t recall the name of the furniture store; they had some funky pieces though)
One exception to this statement is the 150,000 square foot Bass Pro Shop – it seriously blew our minds. Stepping into the building that stretched forever upwards, I half-expected Vince Vaughn to pop out, dressed in full-on fishing gear, as if we were on the set of a comedy.
Bass Pro Shop
From the antler-lined entranceway to the the two-storey waterfall, the massive fish-filled tank, and the taxidermy display reminiscent of a wildlife museum, it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise. Anything you could possibly need for fishing, hunting, camping or boating is available in the store, and while I’m certain their selection is good, the fact that the store is a tourist attraction in itself doesn’t hurt matters either.
Fish tank (we didn’t stay for the feeding time)
General store (with ice cream and other classic goodies)
The store is a bit of a playground as well, as evidenced by their shooting gallery. Fun could be had for just 50 cents, and well, Mack couldn’t help himself.
We didn’t stay at CrossIron Mills quite as long as we could have, but it was enough to experience the mall. All in all, Bass Pro Shop is worth a visit for the pure spectacle of it – the rest is nothing you haven’t seen before, or couldn’t get elsewhere.