By Craig Patterson
Montreal-based entertainment and theatrical company Cirque du Soleil plans to launch shopping centre-based family entertainment centres next year, with the first in the world set to open in September of 2019 at the Ivanhoé Cambridge- owned Vaughan Mills, north of Toronto. More locations are expanded in other Ivanhoé Cambridge properties, as well as potentially with other landlords.
The announcement was formally made during the City of Vaughan’s 2018 Mayor’s Gala on the evening of Thursday, June 21, with Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua saying, “After much media speculation, I am proud to announce that Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group and real estate developer, Ivanhoé Cambridge, owner of Vaughan Mills, have chosen Vaughan to be home to the world’s first-ever indoor CREACTIVE family entertainment centre, which is scheduled to open in September 2019 at Vaughan Mills.”
Mr. Bevilacqua went on to say, “CREACTIVE will be a first of its kind, an innovative concept of indoor family entertainment experiences specially designed by Cirque du Soleil for retail locations, like Vaughan Mills. It will add to Vaughan’s already thriving tourism, creative arts, entertainment and recreation industries. Our city is known for its commitment, appreciation and celebration of arts and culture. We are blessed and enriched by diversity – our people speak 105 different languages. It will be here in Vaughan, where families can stretch their imagination and embrace the grandeur of being a Cirque du Soleil performer.
The city of Vaughan is one of Canada’s fastest growing communities. Incorporated in 1991, the city now boasts a population of 335,000 — that’s larger than cities such as Saskatoon and Regina, not to mention most cities in Canada’s Maritime Provinces. The Greater Toronto Area is home to more than six-million residents, and is said to be growing by more than 100,000 people annually. Vaughan recently became connected to Toronto via the TTC subway network, which extended past Toronto’s borders for the first time with the opening of two stations north of York University.
The intention of such entertainment centres is to further drive foot traffic to malls, as landlords seek to create ‘community hubs’ that include various non-retail uses. In some respects, West Edmonton Mall got it right the first time — create an engaging destination that includes multiple uses that include retail, and give consumers a series of experiences that will also have them coming back for more.
Vaughan Mills, as well, already has a Legoland Discovery Centre -- Cirque will be another family-friendly attraction for the busy centre.
CREACTIVE is described as being an "immersive, creative and participative family experience", where visitors “can stretch their imagination, flex their muscles, explore newfound circus skills, and take a bow on the virtual Cirque du Soleil stage”. The Vaughan Mills location is expected to span nearly 25,000 square feet when finished, and will offer a range of acrobatic, artistic and other Cirque du Soleil-inspired recreational activities such as bungee jumping, aerial parkour, wire and trampolines, mask design, juggling, circus track activities, and dance.
“Our fans regularly express their wish to experience Cirque du Soleil from an insider’s perspective, to peek behind the curtain and imagine themselves stepping into our artists’ shoes. With CREACTIVE, we make that possible by inviting families to jump on stage, offering them another way to explore our creativity beyond our live shows”, said Marie-Josée Lamy, Cirque du Soleil's Producer of CREACTIVE.
Cirque du Soleil already operates two highly successful outdoor theme parks along the same lines — Club Med CREACTIVE by CIRQUE DU SOLEIL has locations at Club Med locations in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and in Opio, France.
Ivanhoé Cambridge is reimagining its retail properties as experiential destinations. In an earlier interview, the company’s president, Claude Sirois, explained how malls are becoming a “collection of experiences” and how “brick and mortar is here to stay”, provided that it includes what consumers are actually looking for. CREACTIVE is the second major announcement for the landlord in less than a month, after announcing in late May that it had struck a partnership to open a Time Out Food Market at its Montreal Eaton Centre project — one of only a handful worldwide (currently there’s just one, in Lisbon Portugal).
Cirque du Soleil confirms that it’s negotiating for other locations with other partners, and that it’s also in discussions with Ivanhoé Cambridge for additional locations in Canada as well.