Retail

Here's a first look inside the $5 billion American Dream mall

Key Points
  • Visitors finally took their first steps inside the American Dream mall on Friday.
  • The mall, located by MetLife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, features an ice rink and Nickelodeon theme park. 
  • The 3-million-plus-square-foot space will open in stages and eventually be 55% entertainment and 45% retail.
American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Visitors finally took their first steps inside the American Dream mall on Friday.

The mall, located by MetLife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, was once called "the ugliest damn building in New Jersey and maybe America," by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Construction has been on and off for several years, after hitting several road blocks in everything from funding to lawsuits from the NFL.

More than 17 years later, CNBC got a peek inside the partially opened center. (Only the ice rink and Nickelodeon theme park are open as of now.)

An estimated 2,500 people visited the mall on Friday, according to an American Dream press release. They waited in long lines for everything from food to rides — and to take their pictures with characters like Spongebob.

On Friday, some parking spots we saw cost up to $45. On its website, American Dream lists parking prices listed for $3-$24.

Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, called the first phase opening a "great first step."

"There's that great line, 'I don't know how to define it, but I'll know it when I see it.' This feels like it's a success," he said.

Don Ghermezian, President and CEO of Triple Five developers of American Dream (far left), New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (middle) at first phase opening
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The developers behind the project, Triple Five developers, are also behind the Mall of America — the largest mall in the U.S. — and West Edmonton Mall in Canada — the largest mall in North America.

The mall-and-park complex will eventually feature a LEGOland, a movie theater and a ski-park. The indoor water park will open on Nov. 27, and the rest of the shopping center will open in March 2020. The 3-million-plus-square-foot space will eventually be 55% entertainment and 45% retail.

Mall retailers will still face challenges, due to Bergen County's "blue laws" that don't allow shops to open on Sundays.

The theme park portion of American Dream has been in the works since July 2012, and the center was issued a temporary certificate of occupancy on Thursday.

The total price tag of the center is estimated at $5 billion.

Here's a look inside the Nickelodeon theme park:

Thomas the train takes you on a ride throughout the park: 

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

"Rugrats" themed Merry-Go-Round: 

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Nickelodeon's "Fairly Odd Parents"-themed Timmy's Half Pipe Havoc ride:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The mall has a NHL-sized ice skating rink:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Ren and Stimpy's Space Madness ride: 

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The park has rides for all ages:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

A father and his kids enjoying the theme park:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Some of the over 35 rides and attractions are still waiting for approval to open:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

A ropes course sure to challenge anyone's fear of heights:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues ride for the little ones: 

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were on hand to great visitors:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The final touches are still being put in place:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Boots, a character from Dora the Explorer:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The Nickelodeon water park will open Nov. 27:

American Dream Mall Nickelodeon Universe
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

CNBC's Lauren Thomas contributed to this report.

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