Southern California Mall Owner Enlists Ninja Warriors in Battle To Win Back Customers

Nation's First Adventure Park Inspired by TV Show Is Among Latest in Wave of Non-Shopping Tenants

Set to open in July in Santa Ana, California, American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park is modeled on the popular obstacle-course TV competition show. (American Ninja Warrior Adventure Parks)


The nation’s first American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park is slated to open next month at MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, California, as retail center owners nationwide ramp up strategies to get Amazon-addicted customers to stop shopping online and return to their properties with non-shopping attractions.


Dallas-based Centennial, which owns several centers nationwide, anticipates a July 8 opening for the 17,000-square-foot indoor park modeled after the popular NBC obstacle-course competition show “American Ninja Warrior,” which has run on the network since 2009 and is based on a Japanese show called “Sasuke.”


The Orange County venue, the first in the United States, comes after United Kingdom has 17 Ninja Warrior parks, a venture of attractions developer Air Park USA and Universal Live Entertainment, which is part of Comcast’s NBCUniversal.


It's billed as a combination of fitness and fun “providing participants an opportunity to master their inner ninja.” Customers can traverse obstacles such as monkey swings, spider walls, tilting logs and floating bridges. There will also be a 10,000-square-foot “inflatable obstacle course.”


“Bringing the first American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park in the U.S. to MainPlace Mall shakes up the traditional shopping experience with a dose of adrenaline,” Jonathan Maher, Centennial’s vice president of property management, said in a statement.


Maher said the family-friendly ninja venue, designed to serve multiple age groups, is part of “a leasing strategy focused on creative first-to-market concepts that connect with the community in new and meaningful ways.”


"Santa Ana will be their first location in the U.S.," Adam Ritchie, spokesman for American Ninja Adventure Parks, told CoStar News. "They're focused on getting Santa Ana up and running at the moment and wouldn't be able to share details beyond confirming that they're actively looking to expand."

Foot Traffic Hurdles

The planned opening comes as U.S. mall operators were installing non-shopping elements to make up for the loss of foot traffic well before the pandemic hit as once dependable anchors such as Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penney underwent a wave of mass closings.


The need to boost traffic has been heightened by the pandemic, which continues to dampen foot traffic at places like mall-based movie theaters and eateries, though centers in most major cities have been rebounding during the past year.


After more than two years of customers working and dining at home, some analysts have said a comeback is in the works for what has long been known as “experiential retail,” which goes beyond shopping, though they are also watching for the prolonged effects of rising gas prices and inflation, now at a 40-year high.


“People are hungry for the social scene,” James Cook, director of U.S. retail research at brokerage JLL, said in a May report. “Fitness center and beauty tenant visits are up considerably from 2019 levels, as everyone rushes to look their best for expanded social activity.”



MainPlace Mall was built in 1987 at 2800 N. Main St., near Interstate 5 and state Route 55, and currently has more than 150 tenants.


Cook noted that “eatertainment” venues such as Dave & Buster’s and Main Event were seeing April traffic levels up 22% from April 2019 and up 36% from April 2021. In-person dining has also been recovering, especially in Sun Belt states.

Mall operators are increasingly filling empty retail spaces and parking lots with apartments, gyms, bowling centers, trampoline parks, go-kart tracks and high-tech golf driving ranges. The Ninja Warrior attraction offers a turbocharged version of the rock-climbing walls seen in some malls and sporting goods stores during the past few years.

Mall Transformation

MainPlace Mall was built in 1987 at 2800 N. Main St., near Interstate 5 and state Route 55, and currently has more than 150 tenants. Centennial was part of an investment group that acquired the three-story property in December 2015 as part of a $1.1 billion deal involving five retail centers sold by Westfield, which is now part of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, according to public data.


Centennial officials said the company completed a significant renovation of MainPlace Mall in 2016, bringing in new tenants including 24 Hour Fitness, Ashley Furniture HomeStore, Round 1 Bowling & Amusement and three new restaurants. Earlier this year, Centennial and Los Angeles-based developer Lowe began construction on a 309-unit apartment complex on the southwest corner of the mall property.


Centennial is not the only Orange County mall operator thinking about non-shopping attractions. City officials in Laguna Hills in March approved plans for a $130 million mixed-used redevelopment of the aging Laguna Hills Mall planned by developer Merlone Geier Partners and expected to include approximately 1,500 apartments, a hotel and new retail and office spaces.


Also, city officials in Westminster are reviewing options to redevelop Westminster Mall with elements that could include housing.