September 18

This Day in History

Automotive

Sep 18, 1981:

Canada mall sets parking-lot record

On this day, the 20,000-car parking lot at Canada's West Edmonton Mall makes the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest parking lot in the world. The mall has held other records, too: At one time or another it's been the World's Largest Shopping Mall (5.2 million square feet, or about 48 city blocks), the World's Largest Indoor Amusement Park and the World's Largest Indoor Water Park (which includes the World's Largest Indoor Lake and the World's Largest Indoor Wave Pool).

The West Edmonton Mall has more than 800 stores, 100 restaurants, and 19 movie theaters. It also has a full-size ice-skating rink, where the Edmonton Oilers occasionally practice; two hotels, one of which boasts elaborately themed rooms (the Hollywood Room, the Polynesian Room, the Igloo Room, the Canadian Rail Room, the African Room, and the Arabian Room, for example); a chapel; and a sizeable handful of nightclubs. The mall is arranged in a series of wings, also themed: There is an opulent 19th-century European boulevard, a faux Bourbon Street, and a Chinatown wing arranged around a koi pond. A replica of Christopher Columbus' famous Santa Maria shares a lagoon with real submarines and exotic fish. When the mall opened in 1981, its developer offered this dedication: "What we have done means you don't have to go to New York or Paris or Disneyland or Hawaii," he said. "We have it all here for you in one place, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!"

Though the mall has held the world's largest parking-lot record for years, some people argue that it shouldn't: Because the lot is half indoors and half outdoors, they say, it's actually not one parking structure but two. By that calculation, you can find the world's largest parking lot at Seattle's Sea-Tac airport, which has 13,000 parking spaces under one roof. At any rate, huge lots seem to be everywhere: Universal Studios has two 10,000-car garages, the Denver airport has two 7,000-car lots, and the Baltimore airport has two garages that hold almost 14,000 cars in all.

Whether it deserves it or not, the West Edmonton Mall's parking-lot record will soon be broken. In Dubai, a 40,000-space parking lot is under construction at a shopping center, and the lot at that nation's new Al Maktoum International Airport will have room for almost 100,000 cars.

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