The former Younkers department store space at Merle Hay Mall will be transformed into an arena for the Des Moines Buccaneers and an event center, the mall’s owner said. Also planned is a 150-room hotel. Architectural rendering by ICON Architects

The former Younkers department store space at Merle Hay Mall will be transformed into an arena for the Des Moines Buccaneers and an event center, the mall’s owner said. Also planned is a 150-room hotel. Architectural rendering by ICON Architects

 

Former department store space that has sat vacant at Merle Hay Mall for more than two years will get new life as an ice hockey arena, event center and hotel, the mall’s owner announced.

Space at the former Younkers department store will be transformed into a 3,500-seat multipurpose arena that will be the new home of the Des Moines Buccaneers hockey team. The arena will have four sheets of ice -- one for the Buccaneers and three others, all with bleacher seating, to host additional games, practices and tournaments.

Also planned is a 150-room hotel.

“Redevelopment of the west side of the shopping center will transform Merle Hay into a multi-purpose, multi-needs destination both in the Des Moines area as well as the State of Iowa and greater Midwest region,” Elizabeth Holland, CEO of Merle Hay Investors, said in a news release. Merle Hay Investors owns the shopping center, which is located at Merle Hay Road and Douglas Avenue. 

The redevelopment of the former Younkers space is one of several changes occurring at the mall. In September, Merle Hay Investors sold 1.7 acres of mall property to a group that is constructing an apartment building with affordably priced units on the site. The parcel had previously been surface parking. 

In October, Holland said she planned to sell the six-story office tower located at the mall. At the time, she said she hoped the tower would be converted to senior housing. 

Also in October, Holland confirmed that Merle Hay Investors had reached an agreement to buy the vacant mall building that for decades had been home to Sears department store. Redevelopment plans for the site include razing the former Sears building and constructing an open-air strip shopping center.

Younkers and Sears were both original tenants of Merle Hay Mall, which opened in 1959 as an open-air shopping center. Sears anchored the north end of the mall, Younkers the south end. Younkers later moved to a building on the west side of the mall.

The mall is located in both Des Moines and Urbandale. The former Younkers space, which will be home to the new ice sports and entertainment center and hotel, is in Urbandale.

Holland said she has been working with the Buccaneers and officials with the cities of Urbandale and Des Moines on the redevelopment plan for about two years.

The proposal to move the Buccaneers to a new arena at the mall became more urgent in August after the derecho that swept through Iowa heavily damaged Buccaneer Arena at 7201 Hickman Road in Urbandale. The fierce winds ripped away portions of the arena’s roof and most of its shingles. The arena’s exposed interior was damaged from the pouring rain.

This fall, the Buccaneers announced that they would open their 2020-21 season at Wells Fargo Arena.

“We really have seen the need for a new arena especially since the damage of the derecho,” Nate Teut, the Buccaneers’ president, said in a news release. “A new state-of-the-art facility will continue the growth of ice sports here and provide a championship caliber venue for the Bucs, the community and the region.”

Work on the new complex is expected to begin in summer 2021 with completion by the following summer, according to Holland. She said the group hasn’t yet reached an agreement with a hotel operator.

It’s not yet known how much the redevelopment of the former Younkers space will cost, Holland said.

RELATED ARTICLE: Senior housing eyed at Merle Hay office towers, owner says

A conceptual rendering of the planned new arena for the Des Moines Buccaneers. Architectural rendering by ICON Architects