Three-year-old Ryan Luke may have broken a mall rule, but you can pardon his enthusiasm.
Walking by the new play area at the Foothills Mall last week with his parents, Ryan ignored the taped-off entrance and accompanying closure sign to dart into the fun.
His dad, Chris, ordered him to come back, but understood his child's attraction to the area.
"It's great that it's enclosed," Luke said. "He can't run off."
The new 800-square-foot play area was closed for maintenance that day, and has since reopened.
Luke, 28, said it's nice to be able to kick back and relax as Ryan blows off steam climbing on the equipment and running around.
Dubbed "Arizona Adventure," the playground is set up inside a hollowed-out, previously vacant restaurant pad in the mall's food court.
Management at the mall, 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd., created the new indoor playground by moving structures from elsewhere in the mall.
Adorned with a desert landscape mural by Jos Villabrille that stretches across its three walls and on the ceiling, the room offers kids myriad fiberglass Old West and desert wildlife-themed distractions.
There are a giant lizard, snake and turtle and a wagon car with wide, open wheels that make excellent hide-and-seek spots. A tepee, castle with a slide and saguaro also beckon children. Kids can stash their shoes in a cubbie.
The flooring is a rubber surface meant to minimize slipping.
Parents can chill out on four benches that line the walls.
The mall is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Regina Harmon, the mall's general manager, said its owners had plans to install the playground in the food court since it bought the equipment in 2007 or 2008 and "temporarily" installed in on the south side of the mall. The conversion process took about six weeks and concluded Sept. 17.
She said parents have been "very positive" about the change, adding that the equipment is cleaned daily, just as it was before.
"It's easier for parents to maintain sight of their children when they're in an enclosure versus an open area," she said.
If you go
• What: Arizona Adventure grand opening.
• When: Noon to 2 p.m Friday.
• Where: Food court at Foothills Mall, 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd.
• Notes: Balloon artists and face painters will be on hand, and the first 50 kids to check in will receive a free frozen yogurt from Mrs. Fields Bakery Café.
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org