Melinda and Mark Mickholtzick brought their twin 3-year-old sons Tyler and Bryce to see Santa at SouthPark Mall in 2013. After hearing “feedback” from customers, SouthPark mall reversed itself and announced Saturday it will include a traditional Christmas tree in its 2015 holiday display after all. JOHN D. SIMMONS jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
Melinda and Mark Mickholtzick brought their twin 3-year-old sons Tyler and Bryce to see Santa at SouthPark Mall in 2013. After hearing “feedback” from customers, SouthPark mall reversed itself and announced Saturday it will include a traditional Christmas tree in its 2015 holiday display after all. JOHN D. SIMMONS jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Business

Simon Malls president: SouthPark glacier ‘was a mistake’

By Katherine Peralta

kperalta@charlotteobserver.com

November 08, 2015 4:49 PM

SouthPark mall made a mistake when it chose to replace its traditional Christmas tree with a faux glacier, the company’s president said Sunday, and the controversial display will be removed sometime Monday.

“It was a mistake, and we had to correct,” Simon Malls President David Contis said Sunday. “If we lose money, so be it.” Indianapolis-based Simon Malls owns SouthPark as well as Charlotte Premium Outlets and Concord Mills.

SouthPark mall shoppers did not take kindly to the mall replacing its traditional Christmas tree with the controversial glacier as part of its Santa display, so the shopping center announced this weekend that the tree is coming back.

The decision to add the glacier wasn’t intended to be secular at all, Contis told the Observer on Sunday. The glacier, which featured interactive elements such as a sound and light show, cost tens of thousands of dollars and took many months to build, he added.

The glacier, he said Sunday, should be gone within the next 24 hours.

Customer feedback on the new holiday feature was mostly negative on social media. Many accused the shopping center of trying too hard to be politically correct. Others lamented the aesthetics of the giant white mound.

A Change.org petition created soon after news of the glacier came out Friday had garnered nearly 24,000 signatures as of Sunday afternoon.

SouthPark is one of five malls in which Simon had planned to add the glacier. Contis said feedback at other malls has been mixed. Customers at a Long Island mall that added the glacier had a similar reaction to it as SouthPark shoppers, according to local reports.

On Saturday, just a day after SouthPark’s announcement of the new Santa display, the mall said it would incorporate “key elements to the Santa set,” including the traditional Christmas tree. At the time, the mall said it would keep the glacier, but now says it’s getting rid of it entirely.

The mall will be putting up its traditional decor, including the Christmas tree, which will feature a few new elements such as updated lighting, Contis said.

Simon has been upgrading Santa sets throughout malls in the United States, Contis said. The glacier concept was inspired by the North Pole, the well-known home of Santa Claus.

“Not every one of our ideas works, but the majority do. This is an idea that could be changed easily,” said Contis, who was on the capital committee that made the decision.

SouthPark is an important Simon mall, Contis added. It has long been a “good corporate citizen” that employs thousands and brings in millions in sales tax revenue. The mall is also in the midst of a major renovation that includes upgrades to its furniture, Wi-Fi and columns inside and its landscaping outside.

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