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Suburban moms will miss Randhurst
By Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald Staff

Taylor Jordan, 5, of Mount Prospect takes a spin on the carousel at Randhurst. The ride closes this weekend and will head to a new home in California.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The carousel is reflected in the mirror at Randhurst.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Tots and moms enjoy the kid's play area at Randhurst.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Shannon Jordan rides the Randhurst carousel with Alex Lee, 5, and Chase Jordan, 3, of Mount Prospect. The mall was popular with parents of small children.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

This weekend offers the last chance to ride the carousel at Randhurst.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

This weekend offers the last chance to ride the carousel at Randhurst.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/18/2008 12:09 AM

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While cold drizzle fell outside, a friend and I brainstormed places we could take our 3-year-olds for a Saturday afternoon playdate.

I had just moved to the suburbs and didn't know the preschool hot spots. So when my friend suggested we go to Randhurst, I couldn't understand why. Take our toddlers shopping?

Little did I realize that there had been (almost) no shopping inside the Mount Prospect mall for the past few years. Rather, it had become a wide-open and rarely crowded play area for little kids. They could entertain themselves for hours - and it would cost, us, the parents, less than $15.

No wonder the mall is going out of business.

While we understand why our free indoor playground is disappearing, we suburban parents sure are sad to see it go. Especially as the winter months approach.

"When it's nice out, we go to the park. When it's nasty, we come here," said mother Sally Combs, of Rolling Meadows. "I'm definitely going to miss this place."

The mall will close Sept. 30 so it can be torn down and transformed into an open-air "lifestyle center" named Randhurst Village. It's supposed to be similar to The Glen in Glenview, with nice restaurants and a movie theater.

This Sunday, Sept. 21, will be the last time the mall's Venetian carousel spins. The next day, it will be dismantled and sent to a mall in California, never to be ridden in Mount Prospect again.

One rainy Thursday night this month, Shannon Jordan of Mount Prospect brought her daughter Taylor, 5, and her son Chase, 3, to ride the carousel. Even though the mall is now almost empty and eerily darkened, families continue to trickle in to enjoy what's left of the children's play areas.

"We probably came here once a week in the winter, and we'll probably come here one more time before it closes," Jordan said. "There are not a lot of indoor places where you can take your kids and not spend a ton of money. The kids get excited to come here."

Woodfield Mall never offered much for kids. And, besides, the Schaumburg shopping center was always crowded. Randhurst had it all:

• A lighted carousel and holiday train (bonus: no line) that charged only $1 per ride.

• A large carpeted play area with climbing toys and coin-operated rides nearby. A newly remodeled bathroom with a changing table was just steps away.

• A food court with kid-friendly offerings like McDonald's and Sbarro.

• A Big Toys store, which despite the sign at the entrance that said "Children are not allowed to play on the toys," was a free-for-all play area of huge plastic houses, slides, ride-on trains and other large sturdy toys.

• Paint-N-Party, where you could buy a piece of ceramic for less than $10 and let your kid paint it. Even though you had 100 of them at home already, it was a fun (and quiet) way for kids to pass the time.

• Because the parking lot was relatively empty, you could park close to the entrance.

Sure, Randhurst had its flaws, as anyone who's tried to push a stroller around its maze-like, stairs-filled center court knows.

But on those days when you didn't have much money but had to get the kids out of the house, Randhurst saved the day. And in the process, it also saved the sanity of many suburban moms and dads.

Thanks, Randhurst Mall. And goodbye. We'll miss you.

Will Woodfield fill the void?

Construction is beginning on a new children's play area at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.

While Woodfield's management refuses to discuss the details just yet, they have said the play area will take up most of the lower level of Macy's Court. It's currently scheduled to open in mid- to late-October.