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Ross Park Mall holiday train's retirement upsets shoppers

| Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, 10:28 p.m.

Some parents say they are upset that a children's ride-along train that for years was part of Ross Park Mall's winter holiday display has come to the end of the line.

The mall is replacing its old holiday decor with a $250,000 display that features iPads loaded with holiday-themed games, mall officials said. The new configuration cannot accommodate the train, Ross Park said.

“I'm pretty upset with Ross Park, so I might just stay away,” said Heather Seidel, 31, of McCandless, who normally takes her daughters, Hayley, 5, and Lindsey, 4, to Ross Park to ride the train two or three times during the holiday season.

Seidel was among about 20 people who posted Facebook comments expressing their dissatisfaction on Thursday and Friday. The mall's operators stood by their decision.

“We are excited to have a new, fun home for Santa. Through the years, customers have asked when we would be changing our decor, and we listened to their comments and hope they enjoy Santa's bright new home and the trimmings,” the mall said in a prepared statement.

The new display will include a sleigh on which Santa Claus will sit, iPads with holiday-themed games for children and a towering Christmas tree, according to the mall.

“I can't just imagine taking my 4-year-old and letting him play with an iPad (in the mall),” said Ross resident Robyn Jenkins, 33, who takes her son Blake to Ross Park during the holiday season.

Holiday lights will be on the upper and lower levels of the common area, mall manager Lisa Earl said.

Studio Artefact, a Montreal-based company, designed the new decor.

It will be revealed on Monday. Santa will arrive on Friday.

The old holiday decor package was 14 years old, Earl said.

The leased train was part of the mall's decor package for seven years, according to mall officials.

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. owns Ross Park Mall, which is off McKnight Road, and South Hills Village on Route 19 in Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair.

South Hills Village, Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer and Monroeville Mall are some of the malls that will have holiday trains for children this holiday season.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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