A Crystal birthday

Many happy returns: Manager Lee Greenwood prepares to celebrate
Many happy returns: Manager Lee Greenwood prepares to celebrate
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IT’S not entirely clear why they called it Crystal Peaks.

The 100-store, 40-acre shopping centre, in Waterthorpe, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013 - but the reason behind the unusual name appears to have been lost in the mists.

“Maybe it was because of the glass atrium,” shrugs manager Lee Greenwood. “Maybe because it’s by the Peak District.”

He thinks for a second: “maybe because it sounds better than Waterthorpe Shopping Centre.”

Well, you can’t argue with that. And you can’t deny Crystal Peaks has always done things...differently.

This, after all, is a centre which once had life-sized models of cable cars which didn’t move; an indoor river which didn’t really flow; and a parade of penguins which didn’t look altogether happy to be there.

Now, bosses have announced they will mark the quarter-of-a-century birthday with 12 months of events, charity activities and displays recalling some of those memorable moments.

Expect pictures of by-gone beauty pageants, tales of minor celebrities (did someone really faint just because TOWIE’s Mark Wright was there?) and the story of an animatronic bear which was so realistic it was removed for frightening children.

In short, Meadowhall it ain’t. Although one shouldn’t overlook its shopping value.

The centre is home to 94 retailers - Next, Topshop and Sainsbury’s included - two pubs, a food plaza, library and 100-stall indoor market. Some 1,600 people work there and 13 million shoppers visited in 2012.

It doesn’t have its multiplex anymore but even that has a place in movie history: the premier of The Full Monty was screened there.

“This was the UK’s first purpose built out-of-town district shopping centre,” says Lee, who became manager in 2009. “That may sound jargon-y but it means it was built specifically for the new estates which appeared here in the Seventies and Eighties. Until then, this area was largely farmland and the new communities had no town centre. Crystal Peaks became that town centre.”

It’s expanded too. Two new wings, a retail park and a couple of tram stops have been added since it was opened by mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington.

And now? Bosses have kicked off the celebrations by launching 25 Good Things, a scheme which will see the centre donate expertise and funding to 25 community projects.

“This is our way of giving something back,” says Lee. “And to looking forward to the next 25 years.”

Have you been papped at the Peak? Midweek Retro picture special tomorrow.

In a shopping centre...?

Unusual attractions? Crystal Peaks has had a few

Rooftop Beehive: Introduced last year, while you spend money, thousands of bees are up above making honey.

Cable Cars: When the centre opened, a model ski-lift - suspended from the ceiling - was one of its main ‘attractions’. That it didn’t move, couldn’t be ridden and didn’t lead to a navigable slope was apparently besides the point.

Beauty Pageants: While the wife shopped, something to keep the husband happy.

Dinosaurs: A life sized Stegosaurus? Why not?