By: SARA MARSH
SCHERERVILLE - After more than 40 years, Sauzer's Kiddieland Amusement Park
may soon be nothing more than a fond memory for area residents.
According to Frank Sauzer, Jr., president of Sauzer's Corp., the Sauzer
family has signed an agreement with Told Development Co., of Oak Brook, Ill.,
to sell about 52.3 acres of property, including the 15 acres Kiddieland
occupies, for an undisclosed price.
Kurt Krall, vice president of retail for Told, said last week that the
company plans to develop a 530,000-square-foot strip mall on the property,
which covers much of the northwest corner of the intersection of U.S. 30 and
However, both Sauzer and Krall stressed that the deal is not yet final.
"We're under a contract with contingencies," Krall said. "We're in the
process of getting the zoning."
The deal to purchase Kiddieland and the surrounding property hinges on
whether town officials will agree to change the zoning on part of the property,
Krall said. While the land that Kiddieland occupies is currently zoned
commercial, the surrounding property is zoned open space, said Steve Kil,
acting town administrator.
Without zoning changes, the deal could fall through.
However, Krall said he was confident that Told and the town would be able to
work together to solve any problems that might arise.
Kil, who had one preliminary meeting with representatives from Told three
weeks ago to discuss the project, said he warned them to be prepared to answer
questions about the impact their project will have on traffic and drainage in
"They had better come up with a very, very good traffic plan if they want
that development to take place," Kil said.
Krall said plans for the project address both the traffic and drainage
"We think we've addressed the problem, and we think that there are answers
to any of the problems," he said.
Preliminary plans for the project call for the "power center" to be made up
of 10 to 15 stores, ranging from apparel stores to home improvement ones.
Krall, however, refused to discuss what stores could be moving into the strip
mall, but he did say space for the stores would range from 20,000 square feet
to 120,000 square feet.
"We're still talking, and I'm not at liberty to tell you exactly who they
are," Krall said.
Instead of being anchored by one or two major stores, Krall said the strip
mall would be anchored by several main stores.
"I think each one can be a draw in and of itself," he said.
Plans call for the mall to have two entrances - one off of U.S. 30 and one
off of U.S. 41. The strip mall would run parallel to U.S. 41, with a portion of
the mall behind the stores that are already on the northwest corner of the
intersection of U.S. 30 and U.S. 41, plans show.
Some separate buildings, such as restaurants and service stations, also are
included in the design, according to preliminary plans.
If the project is approved, the Crossroads Shopping Center, which is located
across the street on the northeast corner of the intersection of U.S. 30 and
U.S. 41, will look small in comparison. The Crossroads Shopping Center is built
on 35 acres of land and measures about 285,000 square feet. The Told venture
will be almost twice as large.
For many area residents, the closing of Kiddieland would represent the close
of an era.
Kiddieland was opened in 1950 by the late Frank Sauzer, Sr., who wanted to
provide a recreation area where people could relax and enjoy country life. When
the park opened, it contained a carousel, a miniature train, a merry-go-round
and even a few farm animals. Since that time, some rides for adults have been
Over the years, many amusement parks similar to Kiddieland have come and
gone, but what made Sauzer's venture unique was its staying power. Forty-three
years later, Kiddieland is still open for business six days a week, from May to
"There have been a lot of people who've gone through the park over the
years," Sauzer said.
The park never kept exact figures on the number of visitors, but many of
those people have returned over the years to bring their children and
grandchildren to the park, he said.
And despite the changes that have taken place through the years - changes
that took Schererville from a sleepy little town to a booming suburban center -
Sauzer said he never had a good offer for the property until Told started
making inquiries in May.
"We more or less have told the community that we weren't interested in doing
anything up until this point," Sauzer said.
But the situation changed.
"There are better uses for the property," Sauzer said. "You get to a point
where ... it's hard for a seasonal business to maintain a parcel
Sauzer said his children and relatives weren't interested in running the
park, so he decided to take advantage of Told's offer.
"Since my children and my relatives aren't interested in what's going on
here, then I have to move on to another option," Sauzer said.
Told, which has its corporate offices in Minneapolis, has developed a number
of properties in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, as well as in a number of other
areas throughout the country, including in Illinois. The company develops
retail, business and industrial properties, Krall said.
According to a number of business publications, Told has a reputation for
maintaining high occupancy levels in the properties it develops. In 1990, the
company was awarded the Developer of the Year award by the National Association
of Industrial and Office Parks
"We're a well-established, well-financed company that has the ability to go
forward on this." Krall said.
One of the reasons the company is interested in the Sauzer family property
is because of its location, Krall said.
"Several of the anchors tenents that we're talking to discussed this area as
an area they want to locate in," he said.
The property has access to a major interchange, is close to Illinois and is
in a high-growth area - all of which are important factors, Krall said.
According to Krall, Told expects to take another six months to complete
engineering plans for the project. And the company should have a better idea of
the stores that will be involved with the project within the next 60 to 90
days, he said.
The company also must go through a couple more meetings with town staffers
before presenting the project to the Plan Commission, Kil said.
As for Kiddieland, Sauzer said he is not sure what he will be doing with the
park's equipment or when it will be moved. Much of that will depend on the
situation with the zoning variance, he said.
However, Sauzer does not want people to think that he is retiring, he said.
The window of opportunity presented itself and now, he said, he is ready to
move on to other projects.