PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The former site of Marshalls at the Lloyd Center – what was once one of the mall’s four anchor stores – will soon be transformed into a summer camp site for kids to enjoy in 2023.
The Marshalls store closed its doors in January 2019 and since then has been creatively used in a couple different ways to serve the community. It’s been the site of a Secret Roller Disco meetup and when more than 10 inches of snow fell in Portland in February, Willamette Week reported the space was used as an emergency shelter.
In mid-June, the vacant store will find new purpose once again as Trackers Earth moves in, creating an indoor space kids can use during summer camp and using the Lloyd Center parking lot as a pick-up and drop-off area.
“We found it’s a place where we could put climbing elements, an axe throwing range, martial arts mats, craft areas; there’s so much room for us,” said Trackers Earth co-founder Tony Deis. “We never thought we’d be in a mall. But it actually is turning out to be a magical fit.”
A mall is certainly an unusual setting for Trackers Earth, a summer camp that operates in Portland and Sandy and focuses on outdoor education and getting kids outside. However, it gives the camp the indoor space to use when the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor activities.
Since the pandemic, Deis said summer camps have been faced with a number of challenges including keeping up with inflation, staffing shortages and trouble finding suitable locations.
He said often, schools don’t know their summer availability until April, which makes it difficult for summer camps to know if they can rely on school facilities to host the camp.
For Trackers Earth, the Marshalls space was a reliable alternative. It was also a place families are familiar with and that allows easy access to Interstate 5 and Interstate 84.
“Lloyd Center is experiencing a kind of renaissance with a lot of more local independent shops… It’s really a lot of fun and Trackers is kind of definitely original to Portland, and we definitely have a Portland flavor and we blend right in,” Deis said.
Trackers Earth worked with a local business association to secure the space and will lease it from mid-June through August.
In addition to installing climbing elements, an axe throwing range, and martial arts mats, Deis said Trackers Earth will also build an archery range and possibly a wrestling ring inside the Marshalls space.
Deis said the camp plans to hold welcoming events at the facility when it opens to allow parents to check it out.