The American Dream Shopping Center is open. What. A. Day.
Most of the Meadowlands mega-shopping center is not open yet – just the Nickelodeon Universe indoor theme park and a regular size NHL rink. The remainder of the 3 million-square-meter development will be opened in phases that will not be completed until March 2020. Nevertheless, this complex was so long an unopened thorn in his eye that he was even partially opened on Friday big deal. So we were there.
The opening was not solemn, but it was nice to finally come in and see what the hype is all about. Here are some things that have surprised, disappointed and impressed me.
1. It is still an active construction site. Even before the stated opening time of 10 o'clock, the doors were not locked, and anyone could come in to watch workers in hard hats hammering or watch people removing skates from crates.
. 2 Getting there by road or bus was incredibly easy (except to navigate the lot was NOT). There was no traffic. Not even on the ramps that lead to the property or the parking lot – and I arrived there when American Dream opened.
But the signage from the highway to the property was inconsistent and non-existent when you arrived in the street complex. The media parking was marked with a temporary sign, but the average person had to guess where to go – or ask one of the many American Dream employees in safety vests scattered throughout the property.
. 3 Speaking of workers, every employee I met – with or without my press card – was so nice. Like Disney nice. They were friendly, happy, and if they did not know the answer to my question, they would go to someone who did that.
. 4 They opened on time but did they? They set the opening date for October 25th and let the public in on October 25th. But the place is a construction zone. There are no shops. And there was hardly any food. And the whole thing is not until March – in five months.
. 5 Ice skating was free! We were annoyed all week about when tickets for the rink would go on sale. We did not want to miss her. Then we heard that the entry for skating would be sold locally. But when we got there, skating was free. And for the rest of the weekend, it's free. (Employees said skating is expected to cost between $ 12 and $ 15 from Monday.)
6. Nickelodeon Universe tickets were for free! Man, we were stunned that we could not get Nickelodeon Universe tickets for the opening day. They were sold out so fast. When we drove there on the opening day, we noticed that everyone was free to be in the park on Friday.
. 6 Do not be too excited because we think this was only one day, but the food was also free! Sandwiches, salads, ice cream, sweets, fries, soda and water – everything was free on Friday. It was also the only meal offered in the 3 million square foot facility. A kiosk had the sandwiches and salads. A few carts of fries and sweets were distributed throughout the Nickelodeon universe. I saw one with a packaged ice cream like you would find on an ice cream truck. (We also saw people walking around the park with salads, etc. Were they taken home? A little sticky, but you do.)
7. In the corridor between the Nickelodeon Universe and the skating rink, the mall has organized an "Autumn Festival", which has proved to be out of place in the very modern shopping center architecture. But people said the pumpkin decoration was a lot of fun. I understand that they were trying to offer people something else to do and see.
. 8 Governor Phil Murphy, who had no grand opening ceremony or press event, was allowed to ride a roller coaster instead! Murphy turned to The Shellraiser after briefing reporters who had been detained for more than an hour on the mezzanine overlooking the Nickelodeon Universe.
. 9 We were also amazed that there was not a big press event. We waited 17 years for this thing. I know that the official opening will take place in March, when everything is open, but this moment has earned more pomp than a marching band pulling through the park and a few words from the governor – it was hard to hear because it was so loud inside the park.
10th The shellraiser deserves its own mention. We knew it was a record break due to its 22-meter-high gap, which offers panoramic views of the skyline from Rutherford to Manhattan. But we were surprised and a little scared when we saw that the drivers had 20 seconds to enjoy this view. This is a long time, when you are 30 meters above the ground, waiting for you to fall face down.
. 11 I did not expect the rides to be that intense. Maybe because the park is inside. Or maybe because it has Nickelodeon themes. But these rides are not lame. Sure, they have a few trips for the little ones. But there are more than a few rides that can turn you upside down or find other ways to stuff your stomach down your throat. (Don Ghermezian, CEO of American Dream and president of Triple Five, the owner of the mall, told the press that one-third of the Nickelodeon universe is for children, one-third for families and one-third for teenagers and adults.)  12. Part of the rides was closed. Two of the three record-breaking roller coasters were "closed due to tests". Ken Downing, the shopping center's chief creative officer, told NJ Advance Media that a trip needed a part shipped from Germany. Others were running, but with dummies aboard. And some did not move in the hours we were in the park. If I were to pay $ 50 to enter the nickelodeon universe, and so many highly praised journeys would not run, I would want my money back. Hopefully they will all soon run for the paying public.
13. The benches and chairs in the Nickelodeon Universe (and right in front of it) are funky shapes and bright colors. But they are hollow, molded plastics. It's a $ 4 billion shopping mall and the furniture feels like IKEA. I sat on a bench under a tree in the Nickelodeon universe and felt like I was dropping. They are not robust. They feel cheap.
fourteenth The murals are really cool and lively and look good in front of the camera. They're meant for visitors who want to use them for selfies on social media, and they shoot really well.
15 I watched as workers built shelves and stuffed them with stuffed animals before Murphy arrived. Behind a bank of waiting news cameras, three workers were unpacking SpongeBob coffee cups when the governor arrived. It was like going to someone's home for dinner and he started vacuuming while you were there. Strange. And uncomfortable.